themail.gif (3487 bytes)

November 1, 2000

Voter’s Guides

Dear Voters:

Kirsten Sherk, below, asks about voter's guides for the November election. I'll give my answer here, but please write if you know of any others. If you still use old-fashioned tree-based media, pick up the current issues of The Common Denominator and the Northwest Current, both of which have complete voter's guides. The League of Women Voters of DC has published a voter's guide that is hard to find, but it is also available on-line at WAMU-FM's questionnaire is at Parents United for the DC Public Schools' questionnaire for school board candidates is at DCWatch also reproduces campaign materials from candidates and lists candidates' own web sites; links to current campaign materials on DCWatch are at And you can also locate your polling place on-line. The Board of Elections and Ethics has published maps of polling places and of Advisory Neighborhood Commission districts at

By the way, I'm begging you again, please sign your submissions. One of themail's few rules is that messages have to be signed. That's because we're an open forum. DCWatch isn't checking out messages and vouching for their accuracy, as a reporter would; we're providing a forum for your relatively unedited (okay, tidied up a little bit) messages. People who write to themail take responsibility for what they write. I haven't repeated this recently, even though it's printed at the end of each issue, and an increaasing number of messages are coming in unsigned. I break this rule below by printing one message from an MPD officer; I should have sent it back and required him or her to sign it, but I wanted to get his viewpoint in, and I'm not sure that he or she would have signed it. But this is the exception; don't try it yourself, because it won't work for you.

Gary Imhoff


Abusing Police Power
Bob Summersgill,

The answer to the question “What should we do about the problem of the abuse of police power?” is file complaints whenever a police officer acts in an unprofessional manner. The police form PD-99 is the Civilian Complaint Form. The Police at the stations are required to provide a copy when asked. If they don't provide it, fill out a PD-99 on them. You do not need to discuss the compliant with anyone other than the Lieutenant who will investigate and make a determination as to what discipline is appropriate. My experience with this process is that there is a lot of pressure to talk you out of filing. Be firm. Chief Ramsey has assured me that he wants these complaints made.

Second, it is CRITICAL that you can identify which officer created the offense. Name, badge number, car number or license plate number are all good ways to identify the officer. Until the Civilian Complaint Review Board is up and functioning, this is the best way to put officers on notice that unprofessional behavior is unacceptable. A PDF version of the form is available on the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance web site at: and on DCWatch at


Driving Illegally — Black or White or Whatever
Richard Layman, Northeast,

Last year, the MPD did a sweep of the streets in my neighborhood in early June, and ticketed all cars with expired plates, ward parking and inspection permits. Pity you if you were driving past them at the time, and meeting any of those conditions. A white woman (I am white, living in a predominately black neighborhood) was pulled over and arrested, her car impounded, for driving with expired plates.

I do agree however with the point about training. However, the thing that I believe (based on old readings of Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral development) is that police officers tend to fit in what he posits to be stage four with the prevailing belief structure that “the law is the law.” You break it and they respond. People in this stage see things very clearly (in another context, the saying would be “they see things in black or white" without meaning anything racial) and don't make gradations in assessing and dealing with situations.

To hear things from the police side, I'd recommend reading Fred Reed's police beat column in the Monday Washington Times. In short, most police have heard it and seen it many times before. And the times they made exceptions and were burned have added up, so that they tend to not make those kind of exceptions any more. Of course, in DC when other municipal departments do(n't) things that then cause you trouble with the police, I do wish there would be repercussions and that the MPD could be more flexible.


An MPD Viewpoint

What is a stereotype? I think it is classifying a whole group of people based on the actions of a few from that group. I was taught when I was younger that this shouldn't be done under any circumstances because you are likely to offend many who ought not be offended. Please don't classify our department based on the misconduct of a few. Some insight: the reality is that the Police Department is tasked with enforcing the laws in the District of Columbia. Often times their action or inaction is misunderstood. Every time I have been faced with a violation or a violator, from parking tickets to homicides, the violator always has a real good reason for their actions. When the officer exercises discretion, they are asked did you let her go because she was female? Did you let him go because he was white? The officer is faced with the discretion dilemma — should I enforce the law (usually the safe move) or should I let her go, and be questioned about my actions later.

Another insight that I would like to share is that I have had the opportunity to investigate hundreds of complaints regarding police misconduct over the years. Often times there are three sides to every story. There is the officer's side, there is the complainant's side, and somewhere in between there is the truth. I find it a bit irresponsible to publish just one side. At the Metropolitan Police Department, we are committed to making this the best agency in the country. Please, if you have a specific instance of police misconduct, let us know so that we can correct it. Be vigilante. Get badge numbers and talk to supervisors. You may find this hard to believe, but most of us are actually doing this job because we enjoy helping people.


Racial Profiling and Race
Marc K. Battle,

Mr. Imhoff commented about the responses to the racial profiling issues, and did so by noting that a majority of DC police officers and officials are Black as well. Although this factor is a commonly raised defense, I might suggest that racial profiling has far more to do with the race of the citizen, and not the police officer. This is because, although there is internal racism within police departments, racial profiling is more an institutional practice than one based in the individual racism of a given officer. For this reason, it is not unreasonable to raise the issue of racial profiling in cases like the one involving Howard University student Prince Jones and PG County officer Carlton Jones. The newspapers and other media were very quick to note that both Jones' are Black — as if that factor nullifies the role that race plays in situations like these. However, although speculative, it difficult to believe that the police — WHITE OR BLACK — would have followed a young white man from PG county, through DC, all the way to Fairfax, Virginia and fired 16 rounds at him from behind. These kinds of things simply do not happen to white people — yet. Black officers are guilty of their fair share of racial profiling. When was the last time you heard of an undercover white officer being shot and mistaken for a criminal? It simply does not happen to white people. Period. When you are prejudged according to the color of your skin, it does not matter who is doing the judging — it is still racism. Accordingly, when Black police harass Black citizens because they are Black, it is blatant racism just the same. Attempting to always draw a distinction will lead us astray from resolving the institutional problems present in our police departments, and will result in a continued lack of law enforcement accountability. PS — I did not intend to suggest that Mr. Imhoff “defends” these police practices.


Maybe It WASN’T Racial Profiling
Paul Michael Brown,

[Gary Imhoff] recently wrote: “In a city where the majority of police officers and police officials are black, the police chief and the mayor are black, and the overwhelming majority of the bureaucracy are black, finding powerful racist whites to blame for what are alleged to be anti-black police policies and procedures is a difficult task.” I would like to suggest a possible alternative explanation for what happened to Mr. Richardson, and to others who have been subjected to heavy-handed, zero-tolerance law enforcement tactics.

As everyone recalls, some percentage of MPD officers out on patrol these days formerly spent 100 percent of their time in cushy jobs far removed from the mean streets. And some of those officers don't like being on patrol one little bit. I speculate that some officers who resent being assigned to street patrol are using a time-honored resistance tactic known to civil servants everywhere. They are refusing to do what they're supposed to do and instead they are conducting themselves in such a way as to irritate the maximum number of respectable, solid citizens. Instead of going after real crime (which was the rationale behind forcing them out onto the streets) I theorize some disgruntled officers are intentionally targeting minor offenses for maximum effort. The goal is to provoke a public outcry and to convince MPD leadership that the additional patrols are not effective. Think about it: Officer Smith is well and truly peeved at being out on the street for the first time in years. Rather than bust some hoodlum he chooses to hassle a solid citizen over a trivial traffic offense. Arrests for real crime remain static, despite the additional patrols. Meanwhile, complaints to MPD brass from respectable folks go up. If all goes according to plan, MPD managers retreat to the good old days and Officer Smith returns to the low-stress desk job he feels is his due.


Driving While Rich
Paul Penniman,

Not to minimize the travails of Mr. Richardson, but his and related anecdotes reminded me of a recent incident near the Connecticut Avenue Car Wash, where traffic rules often go unheeded. I caught this incident toward its climax, where a police officer had parked in the Burger King entrance driveway and was standing, writing a ticket and walking at the same time, for a driver inside a Jaguar who continued to inch along into the car wash. The driver inside did not want to come out or pull over, thus not having to go back to the end of the car wash line, and the officer kept walking (and yelling something about blocking a crosswalk) and writing. I wondered later whether they both got wet.


A Small Correction
Mike Livingston,

Kurt Vorndran writes: “I seem to recall at one time the DC Statehood Party got a ruling declaring it was not a 'political party' as defined by the Hatch Act. . . . It seems to be their merger with Nader's Greens that is the source of their woes now.” We're not “Nader's Greens” — the Green Party nominated Nader, who defeated three primary challengers; he's ours, not the other way around. Come on, do we speak of “Gore's Democrats”?

By the way, the merger of the Statehood and Green parties (which I opposed at the time, fearing legal and structural obstacles that turned out not to exist) has proven instrumental in making D.C. statehood a prominent theme of a presidential campaign, including the Nov. 5 “super-rally” at the MCI Center, and in making the Association of State Green Parties the largest organization in the world that is actively working for D.C. statehood.


Hugh Allen a Solid Choice for School Board
Stan Wellborn,

For Ward 3 residents looking at the school board choices for next Tuesday, I'd like to recommend candidate Hugh Allen, a parent of DC school children and a long-time supporter of public education. He believes in accountability for students, teachers, and administrators, and will fight for fair and adequate funding of schools, including public charters.

Hugh has continued to be a strong proponent of quality education through his continuing work with the Wilson PTA — even though his children have long since graduated. He knows the DC school system well through long service on public school restructuring teams, and he has a knack for finding solutions to seemingly insoluble problems. He has been endorsed by Kathy Patterson and a large group of Ward 3 parents, and his personable style will serve him well in work on the Board of Education.


A Brief Reply To Mr. Smith
Anthony Watts,

This is a brief reply to Thomas Smith's comments in the last issue of themail. We obviously have an honest difference of opinion about certain key issues facing DCPS. Mr. Smith says: “...the increased spending [in DCPS] is a absolute necessity at this stage. Why? Because that is the only thing that will get us some immediate results that will restore some confidence in our parents.” As opposed to Mr. Smith, I stated my honest opinion that “...increased efficiency, re-routing of misused and/or misappropriated funds, and/or more competitive bidding of contracts within the DCPS system” would be the proper first priorities that would in fact allow the type of structural and educational improvements that Mr. Smith wants, and in doing so restore the parent confidence that Mr. Smith writes about. Again, this is a difference of opinion. Finally, there was nothing at all “snide” about either of my letters to themail; and that Mr. Smith would portray them as such is unfortunate.


Comments from a District 1 School Board Candidate Thomas Smith
Richard Layman, Northeast,

I don't have children, but I am all in favor of funding quality schools in DC. I would like to have a family and I'd prefer not to want to move to Montgomery County once my children would be of school age. School quality is probably the biggest real economic development issue the District has with regard to attracting and retaining residents. However, I don't know if I agree with your comments. The fact is that the school system gets $500+ million/year. I know that at least one quarter of the budget goes to special education, although (1) I don't know for how many students that is; or (2) how much of that money is consumed by paying private institutions to educate/house school-age children not able to be placed in the local schools.

So that leaves maybe $375 million, which on average is more than $5,000/student. That seems like a fair amount of money to me. Why are facilities so bad, students without supplies, etc., when the system gets that much money? I am not against more money for schools. However, it's clear that money (facilities notwithstanding) isn't the issue. It's how the money is used and directed. (And this even ignores an earlier themail post I made questioning the accuracy of DCPS enrollment figures.) After all, why can many private schools (not just parochial schools) provide excellent instruction with much less money?

Unfortunately, I have little faith that large governmental institutions (like public school systems) are capable of serious reform (cf. examples from Indianapolis and Phoenix, or schools in Chicago) which is why, over the years I've come to favor vouchers and charter schools whereas I used to say, “Vouchers will just ruin the public schools.” (I voted against vouchers many years ago when a proposal was on the ballot in Michigan.) Now my attitude is, “Why should children be punished by bad schools?” I would feel a lot better about voting for a particular school board candidate (and don't worry about losing my vote, Mr. Smith, I'm in District 3) if they would talk about these kinds of issues.


Mysteriously Delinquent Water Bills
Anne Herr,

We no longer seem to receive our regular water bills (the blue ones) from DC Water and Sewer — we only receive a pink one telling us our payment is late and if we don't go down and pay in person our water will be cut off. This is about the third billing cycle in which this has happened. Is this our unique problem, or have others had this experience? Just wondering.


Excise Tax on Cars
Ted LeBlond,

I remember reading on the DMV web site that there is an excise tax on cars (6%) but I also remember reading that it is waived for certain conditions. Well, now I can't find what those conditions may be. Does anyone know?


Georgia Avenue Facelift
Ralph Blessing,

Neighbors from both sides of the DC-MD line spent a few hours on Saturday, October 21, planting perennials in tree boxes on upper Georgia Avenue between Walter Reed Hospital and Eastern Avenue. The event was organized by the Gateway Coalition, an organization representing South Silver Spring and the DC communities of Shepherd Park and Takoma. Plants, mulch and soil conditioner were donated by PEPCO. Now if we could get someone to arrange for a little rain!



Veterans Day Concert — D.C. Preservation League and Georgetown Symphony Orchestra
Evelyn Wrin,

The D.C. Preservation League and Georgetown Symphony Orchestra invite you to a Veterans Day Concert at historic Hitchcock Hall on the West Campus of St. Elizabeths, 2700 Martin Luther King Jr., Avenue, SE. The November 11th concert from 2:00 to 3:30 will be followed by a reception in Hagan Hall. This event is a fundraiser for the D.C. Preservation League, the Georgetown Symphony Orchestra, and the St. Elizabeths Consumer Fund. Featured at the concert will be American music of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Members of the Georgetown Symphony Orchestra will play selections from Arthur Foote, John Philip Sousa, Samuel Barber, and other American composers. There will also be short lectures on St. Elizabeths and its significance for the Nation and the Nation's Capital. Weather permitting, there will be short walking tours of the historic West Campus. Tickets: $35.00 for DCPL members and $45.00 for non-members. Payment by check to D.C. Preservation League returned by November 6 to DCPL, 1815 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 200, 20006-3610. Further information from Don Hasfurther or Jerry Maroney at DCPL, tel: 955-5616. Also check the DCPL web site at for more information and a registration form.


NIJL Election Night Bash 2000
Jill Levin,

Election Night Bash 2000, Tuesday, November 7, 7:00 pm - 1 am, light refreshments will be served. DC Jewish Community Center, 1529 16th Street, NW, Metro: Dupont Circle. Free. RSVP: Jill, 518-9420 x362 ( Rally with fellow Jews while results come in! Let's come together to witness history in the making. This event is co-sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, the National Institute for Jewish Leadership, the National Jewish Democratic Council, and the Republican Jewish Coalition.


Tree Memorial Dedication
Carol Herrera,

To honor Natasha Marsh and Andre Wallace, the two high school students who were murdered in Brookland last February, the Greater Brookland Garden Club has organized, with a grant from Garden Resources of Washington (GROW) and the support of business owners and Club members, a tree memorial on the corner of 12th and Newton Streets, NE, in the heart of the Brookland business district. The dedication ceremony will take place on Saturday, November 4, at 11:00 a.m. All who oppose gun violence and support green space beautification are welcome.


Revolutionary License Plates Available
Amy Whitcomb Slemmer, DC Vote,

“Taxation Without Representation” new plates available. Please join us for a rally and celebration at 9:00 a.m. with Mayor Williams, Delegate Norton, members of the D.C. Council and live music. Saturday, November 4, 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Department of Motor Vehicles, 300 C Street, N.W. What you need: car registration; proof of insurance; your existing tags; credit card, check or money order for $10.00; you must not have ANY outstanding tickets (but you can pay them at the window Saturday morning); screwdriver (if you plan to drive down to the DMV). Parking will be available. Stop by our office (1500 U Street, NW) in advance to buy an event T-shirt. Let us know if you would like to volunteer for the event.


Fall Bazaar
Nicholas Kesari,

On Saturday, November 4, Inglewide Presbyterian Retirement Community will be having our annual Fall Bazaar from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be antiques and collectables, handmade items, jewelry, linens, pictures and frames, new gifts, Fabrics, Christmas decorations, and white elephants. Also a bake sale. So come early for the best bargains and stay for lunch in our snack bar. Ingleside Presbyterian Retirement Community, 3050 Military Road, N.W., 363-8310.


Plot Workshop
Robert Revere,

On Saturday, November 11, Washington Storytellers Theater offers a workshop for writers and storytellers called “Mapping the Territory: Plot.” In this hands-on workshop, National Yakkers Theater Ensemble director, storyteller and writer Loren Niemi will lead a lively exploration of nine elegant plot forms, including the digressive, circular, and meta-narrated formulas. Through exercises, discussions, and instructor critiques, participants will develop an understanding of the nature and variety of plot forms available for the telling/writing of original stories and the retelling of traditional tales. The workshop takes place on the campus at American University from 1 - 4 pm. Tuition is $30. Call 301-891-1129.


Fair Budget Coalition
Susie Cambria, DC Action for Children,

Do YOU believe that all District residents should have their human needs met? If so, join other individuals and organizations in endorsing the mission of the Human Needs 1st Campaign — to ensure that the basic needs of all District residents are met. The campaign calls on the government to ensure that all human needs are met. For more information, come to the Fair Budget Coalition meeting on November 1 at 9:30 am at the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless, 1800 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, 6th floor, or call Patty Mullahy Fugere, 872-8958.

The first initiative of this campaign is a “Need in the Midst of Plenty Rally” on Tuesday, December 5 from 5-6 pm (location to be announced). The focus of the rally will be to identify those issues that have not been addressed since Anthony Williams became Mayor two years ago and to make specific recommendations for improvements. Organizers (led by the Coalition of Housing and Homeless Organizations and the Fair Budget Coalition) are making plans right now and are encouraging everyone to endorse the mission, to sign on to help plan the rally and to attend the rally and bring others!



Travel Agency
Patti Absher,

Travel agency and tour operator for Italy seeking energetic associates. Two positions available. One part-time Sabre-experienced leisure travel consultant. One full-time office manager. Office on upper Connecticut Avenue, easy access to bus and Metro. Send qualifications and salary history by E-mail or fax to 966-6972.



Apartment for Rent
Lonna Shafritz,

Friends looking to rent bright and sunny Jr. one-bedroom on 6th floor, Chevy Chase, DC (Connecticut Avenue), available January 2001. $690 includes gas, electricity, and central air/heat. Full bath; walk-in closet; lots of shelf space; full kitchen with lots of cabinets, disposal, dishwasher, double oven. Bus at front door. Ten minute walk to Friendship Heights Metro. Bus or walk to Van Ness Metro. Walking distance to shopping, banking, movies, post office, etc. Quiet building. 24-hour security desk. Non-smoker please. No pets. E-mail Peter/Theresa at or call 407-297-6806.



Reading Tutors and Knitting Donors Wanted
Peg Blechman,

Do you love to read? Bancroft students love to read too. We're looking for volunteers to tutor reading to 8 and 9 year old students in a 3rd and 4th grade class. If you can volunteer for one hour once a week, or once a month, we'd love to have your help. These kids are great, and so is their reading program. If you have time on Saturdays, we've got books set aside at the Mount Pleasant Library Children's Section.

We're also trying to get the Knitting Program started again at Bancroft in a 3rd and 4th grade class. It was a great success last year — the kids and teachers loved it. It was even written up in City Paper! We've got two great teachers lined up — they're trained in teaching knitting to kids through the Waldorf School curriculum. The teachers and kids are eager to start. The knitting has really helped the kids learn how to focus, concentrate and develop patience. They've learned that it's OK to make a mistake. Both the boys and girls enjoyed it thoroughly and were so proud of what they knit. And they've had great fun learning how to knit and knitting the different projects. Last year they started out by knitting stuffed animals — a chick, a cat, and a frog. Then they knit a small purse. We even went out to the University of Maryland farm to see sheep shearing! Then the kids learned how to felt and dye the wool from the sheep. This year the teachers want them to knit puppets for a puppet theater.

Now here's where you all come in — we've applied for grants but nothing came through. If you'd be interested in sponsoring a student for $25 for a year of knitting, we're taking donations through Potomac Crafts Guild — a long-standing organization of professional fiber artists, weavers and knitters. Any donation amount would be appreciated. Please E-mail me if you are interested in tutoring reading or helping knitters, or have any questions.



At-Large Quandary
David Sobelsohn,

So, I don't want to vote for a Green Party candidate 'cause that's the bunch that's sending GW Bush to the White House. But I can't stand Harold, and Carol's a Republican. What's a left-leaning DC Democrat to do at-large?


DC Voter’s Guide?
Kirsten Sherk, Dupont Circle,

Can anyone recommend a good voter's guide for DC online? WAMU has one that seems pretty okay, but are there others?


Dave Nuttycombe,

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Friday:
PRESIDENTIAL TIMBER: At a Sept. 25 school board forum at Ward 5's Michigan Park Christian Church, a member of the audience asked how the candidates aimed to address discipline problems in the D.C. public schools. Larry Gray, a candidate for school board president, rose to address the issue but had trouble connecting with his audience.
It wasn't that he didn't speak forcefully enough, or that the crowd was getting unruly. The distraction, rather, was coming from one of his opponents, Peggy Cooper Cafritz. To be more precise, the trouble was Cafritz's hard-soled black shoe, which she persisted in tapping loudly on the meeting room floor. Before Gray could finish his well-reasoned two-minute reply, Cafritz had tapped her shoe 29 times, as counted by LL's UL-certified tap-meter.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
FRIDAY: Evening of Fine Champagne Tasting, 7 p.m. at La Maison FranCaise, 4101 Reservoir Road, NW. $70.
FRIDAY-SUNDAY: Will Durst, at the Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave. NW. Fri-Sat at 8:00 & 10:30 p.m. $17; Sun at 8:30 p.m. $15.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at


themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the subscription form at To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages are available at

All postings should also be submitted to, and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can be put into each mailing.

Send mail with questions or comments to
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)