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October 4, 2000


Dear Gentle Readers:

Please, no more mail about the Marquais Smith message; I think we've covered it all.

Gary Imhoff


Alley Trash
Vivian Henderson,

The trash in the alley situation here in Crestwood is still a problem. Requests to get alleys cleaned go unheeded. A washing machine has been out in the alley for three or four months, along with trash not placed in recycling bins. The DCPW used to have supervisors drive through after the trash had been picked up, and if any trash was left, they would have the workers return and remove it. Under this new administration, all services of this type have been discontinued. Mayor Williams just seems to add chiefs and more chiefs. What about workers — we need them.

ANC representatives: are they paid? If so, what do they do with the funds, and who represents Ward 4? What are their duties? Please inform.

[Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners receive no salaries. Commissions do get some money that they can use either to support the work of the Commission (to rent an office, hire a secretary, and print a newsletter) or to give small grants to neighborhood groups. These funds used to be substantial, but over the past several years the City Council cut them by half and then again by a third, so they are now minimal. ANCs have no power or authority, but city departments and agencies are supposed to give “great weight” to their advice on issues such as zoning and licensing. Commissioners can also be useful in situations like the alley cleaning problem you describe. They can't order any city agency to do anything, and they don't have any more influence over the government than any other citizens, but they should be able to find the right telephone numbers to call, and should help you make the calls. DCWatch has a list of Commissioners, with addresses and telephone numbers, at If you don't know which single-member district you live in, call the Board of Elections and Ethics at 727-2500. — Gary Imhoff]


What’s Happening on Our Block? Well, I’ll Tell Ya
Paul Penniman,

At least once a month for the last thirteen years, the mail on the south side of our block, including our humble domicile, does not get delivered. The north side, a big apartment building, gets its mail, which is about 99% of the carrier's route.

Until about six months ago the scenario would be to watch the carrier come and go, wait a little while, then call the post office. If anyone answered the phone, no matter what time, we would be told rudely that it was too late to do anything about it today, to call the supervisor the next morning during a ridiculously narrow ribbon of time — a totally useless endeavor. Lately, however, we have found an employee who calls himself Mr. Wright, who has given us a new, magical phone number. When we don't get our mail, we call this number and repeat our sob story. And we get our mail, sometimes at 7:30 pm! This brings up lots of obvious questions. Does anyone have any answers?


Tower Update, October 2
Ann Loikow,

[The following E-mail message was sent by Jo Cooper]: Members of the Stop the Tower coalition (Ann Loikow, ANC3C Commissioner, Damien Didden from our legal committee, Tim and I) met this morning in the office of Eric Price, Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development, with Carlynn Fuller, Acting Director, DCRA; ElChino Martin, chief of staff for Deputy Mayor Price, Darryl Gorman from Corporation Council and Des Bracey, DMPED.

We delivered our petition with 909 signatures collected to date (most of them over the weekend by a group of volunteers — Tyler Green, Ana Suarez and John Graetz, Rick Burke (132 signatures!), Wendy Maiorana, Filiz Odabas, Julie Marcus, Donna Gregory, Marc Bouchard, Tony Gorman, Mary Abate, Lorie Leavy and Rick Prescott, Kay Lautman, Keersti Colombant, Mary Evans, bless you, every one!), and indicated that this was just the tip of the iceberg of community concern about this issue. The Mayor has agreed to issue a decision within 48 to 72 hours on the fate of the tower. Our discussions with his representatives would suggest that we are all of the same opinion about this monstrosity; that it is a mistake that needs to be rectified before we go any further. DCRA is looking at the entire process of how the permit was issued in the first place; and we are confident that they will find significant errors and that this tower will be shut down when the city has taken the steps it has to take to do so.

We were able to share some significant facts researched by community members in the few days. Particularly noteworthy: Bob Meffert produced a preliminary report on the very real danger of ice sheeting off the tower, based on engineering calculations. This report was greeted with enthusiasm by the city, as just the kind of thing they need. We have heard anecdotal testimony of ice sheeting off of similar towers from many sources, and this, among others, is a HUGE concern for our community, which needs to be highlighted in any discussion of the project. We held a press conference following the meeting, attended by many neighbors including Tony Gorman, Marla Mitnick, Gail Shibley, Mary Abate, Myrna Sislen, Nancy Belknap, Ana Suarez, John Graetz, ANC3E Commissioner Jill Diskan, Councilmember Kathy Patterson and her Chief of Staff, Jo Ann Ginsberg and others. All the network stations were there, so you can probably catch our neighborhood group in action on any station tonight. I'm proud of this community for bringing this issue to the Mayor's attention so rapidly and with such force. We have no question that, because of your help, we are going to win.


Unsafe City Stigma and Economic Stability
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

Stigma can have a direct impact on an area's economic stability. Since Newsweek first called DC the “Murder Capital” in June 1941 (1941!), DC has lived with the stigma. Today, as the District seeks to increase its residential population to an economically viable level (somewhere around 700,000), and attract tourists to visit and stay IN the city, being a safe city is very important. DC residents, with firsthand knowledge, take the issue seriously. A Washington Post poll of 800 DC residents in February 2000 found — unprompted with a list — that 21% mentioned “crime and violence” as the biggest problem facing the District today. Nevertheless, people seem to feel the problem is elsewhere in the city: 80% reported feeling very (24%) or somewhat (56%) safe from crime in their neighborhood — up 23 percentage points from 57% in 1993. Only 20% said not too (15%) or not at all (5%) safe. But the way DC residents see their city is quite different from other Americans.

Nationally, DC still suffers the stigma of being one of the most unsafe cities in America — but is still considered slightly safer than Los Angeles, Miami, Detroit, and New York. The Gallup Organization conducted a nationally representative telephone survey of 1,012 adults from August 29 to September 5, 2000 (margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points). They asked “Thinking about some large cities, both those you have visited and those you have never visited, from what you know and have read, do you consider each of the following cities to be safe to live in or visit, or not? How about . . . (cities read to respondent in random order).” Following are the results showing the percentage saying each city is “safe to live and visit,” from best to worse: Seattle 76%, Minneapolis 70%, Boston 64%, Dallas 62%, Houston 59%, San Francisco 58%, Atlanta 56%, Philadelphia 50%, Chicago 44%, Washington, DC 36%, New York 33%, Detroit 33%, Miami 31%, Los Angeles 29%. 58% said DC is unsafe. The good news (?) is that this is an improvement. In 1990, 71% said DC was unsafe; only 22% said DC was safe. So, over the decade, DC's image as a safe city to live and visit has improved by 14 percentage points, to a dismal 36%. (Detail: Of course, this provides suburban marketers an opportunity to lure revenues to their areas just miles from Metro and museums. Leaders in the District should take the impact of the TV show “The District” seriously. This is what any smart business or industry whose image was at stake would do. In the marketing world, image can represent most of one's product value. The impact of a fictional TV show can be measured. It would be interesting to know how many people do not visit DC because they do not feel it is safe.


A Missed Opportunity
Ed T. Barron,

The announcement that Home Depot would not open in the old Hechinger site in Tenleytown was a big disappointment to those of us who wanted a big name hardware and home supply operation at that site. True, there were some significant challenges at that site since it is much smaller than a traditional Home Depot. The “hysterical” preservation status of the site also was a big worry, no doubt. But Home Depot missed a very good opportunity to create a hybrid store that could have been the model for a series of inner city Home Depot stores in various urban environments. The traditional stores occupy a huge amount of square feet in order to provide a large number of products and with an inventory that won't quit. A hybrid store, on the other hand, would have to be very creative in providing an ample number of products and a good inventory in much less area.

In my letter to the President of Home Depot a few weeks ago, I outlined just how this hybrid store could be crafted using some technology that I am familiar with from an aerospace inventory operation (in a former life). I noted that this was a good opportunity to think creatively in developing a new configuration for Home Depot that could be quite successful on a sales dollar per square foot basis, and be applicable to other inner city locations. Alas the die had likely already been cast. I never received a response to my letter. In fact, I'm still waiting for responses to the two letters and three E-mails that I sent to Arlene Ackerman. Never got a response nor an acknowledgment from anyone in the DCPS to my positive suggestions. If the folks in the D.C. Government and the DCPS start communicating, we will finally be seeing some signs of hope. So, it's off to Lowes in Alexandria when I need a bunch of home supply materials about every other month. Home Depot has passed up a good opportunity.


Outages in the Debates
Bob Levine,

For the first hour and fifteen minutes DC Cablevision couldn't broadcast the presidential debates. I sat watching snow while the future of my country was being debated because my service provider couldn't deliver a signal. I know I should look for another provider. Just ranting.


Bait and Switch at Thrifty Car Rental
David Sobelsohn,

I recently rented a car for the first time in a long while. I called Thrifty Car Rental and reserved a compact car with a cassette player, since I was to drive 1000 miles through the mountains — where radio reception is poor — and I have plenty of cassettes to keep me awake. I called repeatedly over the course of the next week to reconfirm my compact-car-with-cassette-player deal, and spoke to several people, all of whom assured me they could provide me with a compact car with a cassette player. One hour before my scheduled pick-up, I called one last time and spoke to the outlet manager, who suddenly claimed that Thrifty has few cars with cassette players. I told him he had an hour to find one. An hour later I arrived at the 12th and K, NW, location. The manager informed me he had found a car with a cassette deck, and it would only cost me a few more dollars, well a more few dollars per day, well $10 more per day, well $15 more per day, well 60% more than the car I reserved! Plus he forced me to sign a form promising I wouldn't steal the car and warning me of the penalty for car theft, and also called my home number to check my answering machine message. When I complained, he offered to cancel the transaction and send me away carless. Of course, by then I had no choice; I needed a car. So I took the cheaper car, did without the cassettes and barely stayed awake. (NPR helped, but not in the mountains and not late at night.)

Does anyone know if this behavior by this particular Thrifty outlet is typical of rental-car companies today? If not, and if you want consistency, fair dealing, and a cassette player, stay away from Thrifty, especially the one at 12th and K, NW.


The Message from Mr. Marquais Smith
Ed Kane,

Was, obviously, a parody, fraudulent, or a joke in extremely poor taste. I am amazed that you printed it, and certainly hope that you did not do so without checking the authenticity of the message/author.


Marquais Smith
K. Edward Shanbacker,

It's not so important as to whether this winds up in cyber print, but the recent E-mail from Marquais Smith pertaining to your coverage of the Ronnie Few hearing is over the top even for your newsletter. I understand there are people out there like Mr. Smith, but your total lack of editorial judgment is bewildering at best. To print something so laced with obscenity and racist comments sets a new low for themail — and that's a hard feat to accomplish given some of your previous lows. While you clearly want provoke controversy with themail, I don't think you want your readers to be embarrassed that they're subscribers. Sink this low again and I'm off the list.


Smith Again
Claiborne Porter,

I don't know enough about the fire chief or Mr. Imhoff's use of the “race card” point to express an opinion on those subjects. I don't know Mr. Smith either, but I suggest to Mr. Smith that if he really wants to know who the real racist is he should look in the mirror. If we cannot discuss issues of race without resorting to name calling and race baiting, how can we resolve them? Finally, Mr. Imhoff, I suggest next time you talk about the "race card" you should back your points up with real proof, which will lend credibility to your argument.

[To answer Ed Kane's question first, I can authenticate the existence of valid E-mail addresses, but I can't and don't authenticate the identity of E-mail authors. Although I discourage contributors from using pseudonyms, I don't know whether “Marquais Smith” or “Ed Kane” are using their real names; I do know that they both express viewpoints that some Washingtonians hold. The message from Marquais Smith didn't strike me as a parody or joke at all; it expressed a sentiment that I've heard often before and expect to hear again. That's also the answer to K. Edward Shanbacker's implied question. I printed the Marquais Smith contribution because, although this viewpoint finds an outlet in places like WOL-AM talk shows, it almost never gets printed in the mainstream press. I don't think we can ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist; I do think it has to get an airing and be honestly confronted. Finally, in response to Claiborne Porter, the proof of the race card was the testimony that I cited; it never answered any of the questions factually, but only dismissed them with accusations of racism. The hearing is occasionally repeated on the City Council's channel, District Cablevision channel 13; you can hear it and judge it for yourself. — Gary Imhoff]


Smith Once More
James E. Taylor, Jr., Park Skyland Community,

Civility, civility, civility! I have resisted writing to themail for quite some time because I have felt that the people who write consistently have done so are much more articulate than me. One E-mail from Mr. Marquais Smith caught my eye for the wrong reason. I listened to the testimonies to Acting Chief Few's nomination and I didn't hear anything that discredited this gentleman from becoming the Fire Chief of this city. I am also aware that truths are sometimes overlooked or swept under the rug in these type proceedings. I welcome any information that brings light to any situation, and I remind Mr. Smith, that Mrs. Brizill is black. There is good and bad in all races and dialogue in disagreement should be tempered unless proven. I have had the opportunity to meet Mr. Imhoff and, “as a black,” have never witnessed the behavior as you described. I also believe Mr. Imhoff was wrong about Reverend Willie Wilson being racially biased, I and said so in this column. Let's be civil enough to disagree without being disagreeable with each other. This forum is a great mechanism for exchanging dialogue across the city. Let's continue to build bridges of communications.


Smith Once More Again
Wanda Avila,

Please do not publish another missive from Marquis Smith. He has no right to waste my time. Thank you.


White and Disgruntled in Washington
T.T. Simmons,

Dear Mr. Smith: You said, “The minute someone tells the truth, they are playing the race card, whatever the hell that is.” You should know what the race card is, because you just played it. Ignoring facts and claiming that any criticism of a black person by a white person is racism.

No doubt, all Washingtonians want the most qualified and ethical fire chief for the reasons you stated. So why aren't all Washingtonians outraged when its government attempts to force through the appointment of someone who is apparently neither. And why can't all Washingtonians express concern about the confirmation of any public official without fear of being labeled racist? Staying white and disgruntled, T. T. Simmons


Keith Jarrell,

I am concerned that any one such as Marquais Smith would say something as stupid as she wishes all the white people would just leave. Now I ask you, Ms. Smith wouldn't it be a sad state of affairs? Truth of the matter is, officials make stupid mistakes. It doesn't matter if they are white or black; they make mistakes. But the last thing DC needs is another slick official in office to spend the money unwisely, corruptly, or to bring a history of not being able to tell the truth with him from Georgia or anywhere else for that matter. For white people to raise questions doesn't have the first thing to do with his color or ours, it has to do with all of our safety and our economics of how money is correctly spent. It just never amazes me how when all else fails the race card is pulled out and it's slung at the “whites.” Race is not the issue here. Among intelligent people who attempt to be open minded and intelligent enough to look at the big picture, we must put race behind us if the city and all of its people are to advance. If you can't, then perhaps you are the one that should just leave.


Excuse Me, Mr. Smith
Bob Levine,

This disgruntled white boy is a District native born and raised. This is my home and I will continue to live and work here. I do not appreciate your racist anti-white diatribe. As one who marched with Dr. King and worked for voter registration from Virginia through Georgia in the 60’s I despise any sort of racism including your racist rant. I have no knowledge if Mr. Imhoff is white, black, Latin or any other ethnic group, I only knows that he writes well and you don’t.

Mr. Few has lied on his resume and his prior position is under investigation for malfeasance both of these are very good reasons for not confirming him to the position as DC Fire Chief his ethnicity is not the question his character and ability are. You, sir, are a racist and should be ashamed.


Final Word on Marquais Smith
Jennifer Farnham,

Interesting follow-up piece by a Mr. Marquais Smith. My only comment is that racism is a two way street, as was so eloquently described and clearly depicted by Mr. Smith. Playing the “race card” is apparently an unfortunate practice used not only by “disgruntled white people.” It is precisely these types of generalities and blanket statements applied to one specific group of people that are disturbing and unproductive in today's society.



Candidates Forum
Ann Loikow,

Cleveland Park Citizens Association will present a special Elections 2000 Election Forum on Saturday, October 7. Membership meeting, 10:15 am, candidates forum, 11:00 am. Cleveland Park Library, Connecticut Avenue at Macomb Street, NW. Candidates for Board of Education President of New “Hybrid” Board: Peggy Cooper Cafritz, Robert G. Childs, Lawrence A. (Larry) Gray. At-large member of City Council: Harold Brazil, Arturo Griffiths. Daphne M. McBryde, Mathew G. Mercurio, Chris Ray, Carol Schwartz. Come and listen, question, and discuss the issues. This meeting is open to all.


National Building Museum: D.C. Builds Presentation
Matthew Gilmore,

Getting Around Town: Transportation in D.C. Tuesday, October 10, 6:30 – 8 pm . Joseph Passonneau, FAIA, will consider the District’s current transportation issues and will discuss strategies for alleviating traffic congestion in the core of Washington, which will benefit both city residents and the entire Washington metropolitan region. $8 Museum members; $12 nonmembers. Registration required.


DCCity Magazine Event at Christopher Marks
Alan M. Salgado, Publisher,

October 12th, next Thursday, Christopher Marks and DCity Magazine cocktail reception, 5:30 to 9:30 pm at 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Parking available on-street or in lots. Christopher Marks will be preparing some fantastic hors d' oeuvres to showcase Chef Robert Polk's cuisine. You may remember Executive Chef Robert Polk from such highly acclaimed restaurants as The Occidental and Bistro Bis. Included in the Chef's selection of hors d' oeuvres: candied filet mignon, sweet lobster wontons, Belgian endive with smoked salmon mousse, spinach and crab quiche, spicy jerk chicken with a sweet mango chutney, chicken satay with spicy Thai peanut sauce, cheese platter and crudite. Additionally, you will get a complimentary Mor Vodka drink of your choice along with Christopher Marks' signature drink specials. And don't forget, we'll have your copies of DCity Magazine including this month's feature; 10 Hottest Thrill Seeking Adventures in and around Washington, DC! Come on by, relax, take a load off, socialize and skip rush-hour. $10 at the door. If you buy a subscription online to DCity Magazine before the Christopher Marks event, print out your receipt and bring it with you for free admission! (No forwarded receipts please)


Mediation Practitioner Panel
Larry Ray,

Did you know most disputes never get to court or the disciplinary stage? They are settled using alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques including mediation. Come here about how mediation is being used in the D.C. Schools, D.C. Courts and throughout the nation. Want to find out more about ADR? The Mediation Center of D.C. and George Washington University Law School ADR Board is sponsoring a Practitioner Panel on Thursday, October 19, 3:00 - 4:30 p.m., at Jacob Burns Moot Court Room.

Moderator: Professor Larry Ray. Speakers: Virginia Dize, Director, Center for Advancement of State Community Services Program; Dan Dozier, Mediation and Dispute Resolution Practitioner; Don Greenstein, Esq., Associate Director, US Postal Service Alternative Dispute Resolution Program; Myrtle Lawson, liaison between Bancroft Elementary School and the law firm of Howrey, Simon, Arnold and White; Paul Thaler, Esq., private legal practice, specializing in commercial business litigation. Come meet the panelists at a reception following the presentations in the Faculty Lounge (5th Floor Burns).



Efficiency or Studio Wanted
Ann Van Aken,

Looking for efficiency/studio for a community-oriented couple in Dupont Circle close to Connecticut Avenue. Wanted: rent approx. $800 or less; quiet at night; a/c; move-in asap; parking available? Not wanted: days of verification. I have it if you need it (credit report, employment verification, residency verification, etc.). Please E-mail


City Gardener’s Delight
Art Spitzer,

Apartment for rent: Wisconsin Avenue between Calvert and Massachusetts. Sunny one-bedroom apartment with 17’ x 28’ roof garden in the treetops. Renovated kitchen, hardwood floors, generous closet space, on two major bus lines. A real value for $1,100 (utilities included). Call 965-6272.



(Tenleytown) Methodist Cemetery Society — Records?
Jacque-Lynne Schulman,

Does anyone know a contact for the Methodist Cemetery next to Eldbrooke United Methodist Church on River Road? The Church office has said the cemetery has no tie with Eldbrooke. Some organization must legally own the cemetery grounds, and I hope to find who has the plot records. I know six members of my family were buried there from the 1870's up to 1922. I really want to find my great grandparents' (Mary Annastasia and Henry Fenton Brewer) plot and the rest of the family. The Brewers had a farm on Belt Road in the 1800s. If you know a contact or can suggest a place to start, I will be most appreciative. Call 703-442-9370 evenings, or E-mail


Pro-DC Bumperstickers, T-Shirts, Caps, Etc.
Beth Wright,

Hi! I'm a proud DC resident who's temporarily living in Georgia (grad school). I'm a little disappointed that I need to get a GA driver's license (and thus, register my car here, too), as a condition of my assistantship. I was hoping to spend two years driving around the South with the new “taxation without representation” plates on my car! So I'm wondering if anyone out there in DC-land knows where I might be able to get a bumper sticker, t-shirt, or baseball cap conveying the same message. If you do, please let me know. I'd really like to educate some people as long as I'm out here in the hinterlands!


Spanish Tutor Needed
Ralph Blessing,

My 10th grade daughter needs a Spanish tutor for the next few months to get up to speed for a college-level course she'll be taking next semester. Any suggestions or references would be appreciated.


House Repairs
Michelle Hynes,

I'm looking for someone who can do plaster, paint, and carpentry work on a 1920s row house in Mount Pleasant. If you've had a good experience with someone reliable and skilled, please post to themail or E-mail me at


Parking Space Repair for a Single Family Home
Francy Mess,

I am looking for someone to repair my asphalt parking space at my house on Harvard Street. I was wondering if you knew of any contractors working in the Mt. Pleasant area. I would appreciate recommendations.


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
Loose Lips is on vacation. His column will return when he does.
Read the entire Loose Lips archives here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
SUNDAY: Fade to Black: The Final Cut--Taking Control of Black Images in Film. At 2 p.m. at Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Ring Auditorium, 7th Street and Independence Avenue SW. Sunday at 2 p.m. Free.
TUESDAY: Home-Buying Seminar, 7 p.m. at the Montgomery County Commission for Women Counseling and Career Center, 255 N. Washington St., Rockville.$12.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


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