themail.gif (3487 bytes)

December 20, 2000


Dear Citizens:

Every two years, the City Council shuffles its committee chairs, committee memberships, and even the scope and responsibilities of its committees. The decisions on these issues are made in private and secretly by the Council Chairman, Linda Cropp, although the Council will take a formal vote to endorse them at its organizational meeting on January 2. You can see the current proposal for the next session at The lesson to be learned from the reorganization is that hard work, diligence, and intelligence don't count for anything on the City Council; petty jealousies and pettier ambitions do.

Missing-in-action Harold Brazil, having been ineffective in the past as head of the Judiciary, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, and Government Operations Committees, is being rewarded with the chairmanship of the immensely powerful Economic Development Committee vacated by Charlene Drew Jarvis. Sandy Allen keeps control of the entire Human Services Committee, which has a huge area of responsibility. Human Services was going to be divided in two, but that would have created a new committee with a citywide constituency that could have benefited Kathy Patterson, whom Cropp regards as a potential rival. David Catania, one of the brightest and hardest working members of the Council, remains in place as head of a renamed minor committee, instead of getting a weightier assignment. The rumor is that Catania's reformist tendencies caused Mayor Williams to veto his promotion to head the Government Operations Committee, and that Cropp regards Catania as somehow more "Republican" than Carol Schwartz. Cropp has also created two hodgepodge and makeshift subcommittees of the Committee of the Whole to placate Councilmembers Graham and Mendelson, and to give them something, anything, that they can claim to Chair.

If Loose Lip's quotation from Judge Friedman (see the City Paper preview below) intrigues you, you should read the entire scorching decision. It's at

Gary Imhoff and Dorothy Brizill


DC Culture
Don Lief,

A small comment/suggestion: Washington, as a city, does not note its own historic places. Plenty of “national” images, of course. The several homages to Duke Ellington are exceptions, but he could not be ignored. There are several contributions to world culture that might be noted by plaques on buildings, such as the locations of Emile Berliner's invention of the phonograph record (near 18th and Columbia Rd.), and Otto Mergenthaler's invention of the linotype machine. I think that a plaque at the location of the defunct Jungle Club would memorialize Jelly Roll Morton who played there in the late '30s for an extended time -- long enough to record the historic sessions of playing and narrative that are huge contributions to American jazz. Aren't these links to our city's history worth considering?


Amoco Expansion on H Street NE Deserves Our Support
Paul Michael Brown,

Recently, Kevin Palmer ( fretted that: “A proposed expansion of a BP Amoco located at 3rd and H Streets, NE, has upset the Capitol Hill and Near Northeast community in the last three months.” This falls into the category of “damned if you do, and damned if you don't.” There are few areas of our city as blighted as the formerly-vibrant commercial corridor along H Street NE between Union Station and Hechinger (minus the Hechinger's) Mall. Moreover, as I'm sure everyone would agree, gas stations are few and far between in the District.

Now we have a proposal to expand a gas station to include convenience store in a complex that would be the equal of anything you'd find in the burbs — clean, big, bright, well-lit and open 24/7. Just like they have outside the Beltway. You would think that folks would be happy that a big corporation had chosen to make such a significant investment in an area that sorely needs more commercial enterprises. But Mr. Palmer and the rest the NIMBY crowd are concerned about the preservation of “historic storefront row houses,” which is code for raggedy-ass buildings that aren't being used for much.

I suspect that Mr. Palmer and his ilk are more than willing to blast “the business establishment” for being reluctant to invest in the H Street corridor. But now we have a corporation that's willing to invest in something that will provide a much-needed service plus additional jobs, and yet they oppose that idea. Let's get real here. Sutton Place Gourmet has no plans to open a location on H Street NE. Nor will we see a Volvo dealership, a day spa or satellite facility of the National Gallery of Art any time soon. As much as we might like something oh-so-upscale, we should be cheerfully accept a convenience store over boarded-up storefronts anytime.


Leaf Pick-up
Ralph Blessing,

I'm glad that Alex Butler was able to get his leaves picked up by DPW (themail 12/17). The rest of us should be so fortunate. Our part of Ward 4 was scheduled for curbside leaf pickup the week of November 20. To date, not one leaf has been removed from our streets. When I called 727-1000 last week, I was told that they were running about two weeks behind schedule (though it was closer to four weeks at that point). Yesterday a friend nearly broke her ankle in front of our house when she slipped on the wet leaves that DPW has failed to collect. We're scheduled for our “second” pickup this week, but I'm not holding my breath. Maybe instead of spending a small fortune to print and mail info on its alleged leaf collection program, the city should just provide every household with a composting kit.


Felonious Misdemeanor
Betty Ann Kane,

According to the DC Code, operating a motor vehicle in the District with an expired registration is a misdemeanor, not a felony. DC Code 40-105 provides a penalty of no more than $300 or 30 days in jail for the offense and violations are to be prosecuted by the Corporation Counsel, both indices of a misdemeanor, as the Corporation Counsel does not prosecute felonies (the US Attorney does), and a felony is a crime with a punishment of one year in jail or more and a fine of $1,000 or more. However, the police are apparently permitted to arrest and handcuff persons committing misdemeanors. The section of the DC Code that permits the police to make warrantless arrests specifically allows such arrests for felonies and certain listed crimes, including driving without a license, as well as allowing an officer to arrest if a person is “committing an offense in his presence.” “An offense” is not defined. The relevant DC Code sections, as of April 1999, are 40-105, 23-581, and 4-132. The MPD regulations are not on line but it would not be possible to have rules that are not consistent with the law.

Once again please remind your readers that the DC Code is online and easily reached via a link from the DC Council web site, http:/ The code is up to date only as of April 1999 because the contract for code publication was tied up in dispute, allegedly now resolved and will be updated soon. Some legislation that has become law since then in available on the legislative section of the Council site, which is also being updated.

[A link to the Code is also available on the links page of DCWatch. I recommend using the link, because the URL address is complex and a mile long. — Gary Imhoff]


Police Questions
Ron Linton,

I responded directly to Job Dittberner to tell him his arrest was not for a felony. In so far as accident reports go they were historically a service to insurance companies. Unless an officer is on the scene and observing the action his report is easily dispensed with in a court action. DMV forms are all that are completed for non injury or minor damage accidents and those don't have to be completed for 10 days and are usually completed by the involved drivers. That's been a policy for more than 10 years. Not responding is new since I retired (1998) and probably results from the accident having no need of an officer in almost all of these cases.


Reopen Klingle Road
Margaret McGowen,

I would like to disagree with those who want Klingle Road left closed and hard to access. Every morning traffic backs up on Park Road and is solid and slow moving at least down to Connecticut Avenue. Much of this traffic could be diverted onto Klingle and shoot over to Wisconsin Avenue. The congestion is worse now that Porter is limited to east bound traffic between Reno and Connecticut. The few who enjoy having a virtually private park in their back yards should not outweigh the many who need to get around in this city. It really does seem that a few very loud residents of Ward 3 think that they should be exempt from urban living. The rest of us who live in this city, pay taxes and worry about property values do not seem to count to these people.


Ads Pay the Freight
Jean Lawrence,

I have noticed a degree of whining about the ad content of certain Washington newspapers, and I recalled when I first started writing for Washingtonian. People complained to me that it was so full of ads. Hey, I always replied, it's not so full you have to finish a story in the next issue, is it? It's all there. Toss what you don't want-ads make the whole thing possible. There HAVE to be worse problems than this. Come on, people! You can find them!


The Future of Eastern Market
Matt Hussmann,

Wendy Blair is correct in calling the fight over control over Eastern Market “wild and woolly.” (“Eastern Market” — Sunday, Dec. 17) But there is a good reason for the anonymity on the Voice of the Hill web site -- many of the vendors and merchants at Eastern Market are scared about the future of the market, and they are afraid to take sides publicly.

As the principal author of one of the three competing proposals, I hear a lot of comments “off the record,” so I know that there isn’t much support among the farmers, merchants and vendors for the proposal by Millennium Real Estate Advisors, the Maryland-based developer that lists McDonalds, Burger King, 7-11, Papa John’s and Dominos as references for their work in retail development. Eastern Market tenants are concerned that the deal Millennium proposes ($50,000 plus 20% of the gross income, and they’ll run the market out of whatever is left) will inevitably cause rents to rise. Higher rents will burden the farmers, merchants and vendors who currently give Eastern Market its unique character. And once they leave, who will Millennium recruit to fill the vacancies?

Our proposal pulls together a board of Capitol Hill residents with direct experience in all the facets that go into market management. We propose full-time, on-site staff, and a budget that works without placing an undue burden on Eastern Market’s tenants. Blair is simply wrong when she characterizes our board as dominated by "outside" vendors. And contrary to Blair’s assertion, we would very much like to get politics out of Eastern Market and let the sunshine in. In fact, that’s the only way Eastern Market will ever be truly successful. Please visit and look at the proposals under the Hill Talk link. Decide for yourself which proposal is best for Eastern Market. And make your opinion known. Contact Tim Dimond, Chief Property Manager, Office of Property Management, 441 N. Capitol, 721 North, Washington, DC 20001.


Statehood without State Functions
Richard Layman, Northeast DC,

At this point, having lived in the District for thirteen years, my position has changed on this issue and I have a hard time justifying statehood only because the District is so small (67 square miles) and is lightly populated. (E.g., I don't think Delaware ought to be a state either, but tell that to DuPont.) However, I don't think that ought to negate District citizens rights to political representation. But I do have some disagreement about this post — that the District shouldn't be a state because it can't afford state functions. First, when local control became a reality, people could have figured out that local finances the way that they were structured at the time (and later) couldn't support all those “state functions.” That's what should have been addressed, not “taking away” those functions away 20+ years later. As a citizen of the District for example, I don't want the U.S. Sentencing Commission to deal with parole issues for DC convicts, etc. Local control of local issues should be paramount.

Second, there are at least four reasons (besides depopulation) why the District's financial and taxing capacity is constricted by the presence of the federal government in our city: a) More than half the City's land is controlled by the federal government and doesn't pay property taxes [Note: this is a significant underpinning of any justification for a “federal payment;” so is the argument that the local government has real costs above and beyond the normal functions of the city due to this presence]. b) Height restrictions on District buildings make DC office buildings less financially competitive compared to surrounding jurisdictions. This helps fuel the flight of business out of the city. [Note: I am not against height restrictions, I like the views of the Washington Monument as much as anybody. But it should be recognized that there is a real cost to the financial health of the city as a result.] c) Congressionally-granted tax exemptions to certain businesses cost the District big money. I am only familiar with the Fannie Mae exemption. But apparently that costs the D.C. government (read that as “us”) at least $200 million/year in business income taxes. Whatever Fannie Mae spends on local charity/issues, it's a lot less than $200 million/year. d) Congressionally-imposed restrictions on the District's ability to assess income tax on people who work in the District but don't live here. Most major cities in the United States have this authority and do assess such taxes. What happens here is we can't and the financial health of the city is negatively impacted as a result.

So to me, it begs the question to say that the District doesn't have the ability to financially pay for “state functions.” You don't cut off people's feet and then criticize them for being unable to run, and unable to run world class times in the 100 meter dash.


Statehood and DC’s Economy
David Sobelsohn,

In the December 17 issue of themail, Timothy Cooper claims that “state economies must run themselves” without “federal intervention, and that “a jurisdiction cannot become a state until it is fully capable of supporting itself, now and forevermore.” This is hardly a constitutional requirement. According to the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. government owns half the land in Wyoming, 62% of the land in Idaho and a like percentage in Utah, 68% of the land in Alaska, and a whopping 83% of the land in Nevada. I'd bet these percentages were even higher at admission of these states to the union, and that without federal “intervention,” at least some of these states at admission were far from “fully capable of supporting” themselves. No doubt this is true of Nevada, which achieved statehood decades before development of what is now its biggest (some might say its only) industry. The supposed requirement of economic self-sufficiency is just another political hurdle. Will it be easier to convince a simple majority of Congress to admit DC as a state without “economic self-sufficiency,” or to convince two thirds of Congress and three quarters of the states to approve a constitutional amendment more poorly drafted than the one that failed dismally twenty years ago? That's a purely political question.

Mr. Cooper also claims “our time will not come again for at least another four years.” If “our time” requires a Democratic president, sure. But we could make progress on statehood, and could certainly get a constitutional amendment sent to the states, under President Junior. All it takes is a Democratic Congress, which we'll have in barely two years. Let's aim for hearings in spring 2003. At least then we can get back our Delegate's right to vote in the Committee of the Whole, which would be a step in the right direction. Everyone should follow Mark Richards's suggestion and visit

Hey, is the statehood movement so torpid that it can't get a better advocate than me in themail?


Roll Call Ads
David Sobelsohn,

Have you had any experience trying to place an ad in Roll Call? I'm having some difficulty. At one point an ad rep told me she planned to send me rates by air mail. Of course, with E-mail it's often hard to tell if someone's joking. I'm trying to find out if my experience is typical, and if I should trust them to get my copy correct.


Doing What Works
Mark David Richards,

From Public Education Network ( — Doing What Works: Improving Big City School District. Entire districts, by implementing common sense, research-proven reforms — and by working in cooperation with their local teacher unions and the community — are posting significant gains, many for the third to fifth year in a row. Cities highlighted in the policy brief include Cincinnati, Chicago, Cleveland, New York City, Hartford, and Washington, DC.



TasteDC’s January/February Calendar of Wine and Food Events
Charlie Adler,

1) January 11, Thursday, “New Restaurant Series: Christopher Marks Restaurant,” 1301 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Metro: Metro Center, 7-9 PM, $55 per person, tax and tip inclusive. Join Executive Chef Robert Polk (formerly of Bistro Bis under Jeffrey Buben, and Occidental Grill) as he creates a delicious five-course meal. The menu hasn't been set yet, but we promise great food and wine like our last event there in the Summer! 2) January 17, Wednesday, “Wine Basics 101,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 2121 P St., NW. Valet parking, Metro Dupont Circle (Red Line), 7-7:30 PM Reception, 7:30-9 PM Wine Tasting, $40 per person. Our most attended event! Part of our “Fundamentals of Wine Series” (all classes in the series can be taken individually). Learn how to order wine in a restaurant, determine basic wine styles and varietals, pair wine and food, and more! 3) January 24, Wednesday, “The Components of Wine,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 7-7:30 PM Reception, 7:30-9 PM Wine Tasting, $40 per person. Part of our “Fundamentals of Wine Series.” This event is the perfect addition to wine knowledge gained from our very popular Wine Basics 101 tasting! Join Ann Berta, wine columnist for Washingtonian Magazine, as we show you how to recognize the flavor components of wine, understand and taste the different wine varietals, develop wine preferences based on your palate. 4) January 31, Wednesday, “Wine and Food Pairing,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 7-7:30 PM Reception, 7:30-9 PM Wine and Food Pairing, $55 per person. Part of our “Fundamentals of Wine Series” Let Ann Berta, wine columnist for Washingtonian Magazine, show you the basics: good rules and bad rules, perfect matches and bad combinations, how to order wines for a group event. Food is provided to taste with the wine. 5) February 7, Wednesday, “Introduction to Italian Wines,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 7-7:30 PM reception, 7:30-9 PM wine tasting, $40 per person. Americans love Italy's dietary trinity of bread, olive oil and wine, but understanding their vino can be very confusing. Join Ann Berta, wine columnist of Washingtonian Magazine, as we taste a variety of regional wines that will enhance your understanding and your taste buds as well! Nine wines will be tasted at this event. 6) February 21, Wednesday, “Wine Basics 101,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 7-7:30 PM reception, 7:30-9 PM wine tasting, $40 per person. 7) February 28, Wednesday, “Introduction to French Wines,” Radisson Barcelo Hotel, 7-7:30 PM reception, 7:30-9 PM wine tasting, $40 per person. France produces some of the greatest wines in the world but their labeling, varietals and subtle differences can be very confusing to new wine drinkers. Let Ann Berta, wine columnist for Washingtonian Magazine, help you taste and learn about such regions as Bordeaux, Burgundy, the Loire and other viticultural regions. We'll taste 9 wines that showcase France's regional nuances. Reservations:


East of the Park for Klingle Valley
Martin Thomas,

Neighbors from Mt. Pleasant, Columbia Heights, and Adams Morgan met this week to help preserve Klingle Valley as a green space. Many of us were at the Department of Public Works Meeting on Nov. 30 and heard the results of the traffic study commissioned by the city which concluded that reopening the road would have minimal impacts on traffic congestion. We heard testimony from the police department saying that the reopening the road would not improve public safety. And we heard the National Park Service voice its strong opposition to reopening the road because of the environmental harm it would bring to Rock Creek Park. We are working with the Klingle Valley Association, the Sierra Club and others to get out the word to our neighbors and elected officials and we need your help to save this beautiful valley.

Here's how you can help: 1. Come to our next meeting on Monday January 8, 7 p.m. at Alix Davidson's house 1701 Kenyon St. NW 2. The Department of Public Works is accepting written comments until Dec. 30. Public input will be critical to DPW's recommendations to Mayor Williams. Check out for more info and for a sample letter. Comments can be E-mailed to To get on our phone or E-mail list or for more info, you can E-mail us at or call Martin at 202-332-6558



Energy Audits
Andrew McIlroy, Adams Morgan,

Several weeks ago Paul Penniman posted a request for information about companies that perform energy audits now that Pepco no longer offers this service. My church, Luther Place at Thomas Circle, is looking for ways to reduce its energy costs. Can anybody suggest a firm that could make recommendations on ways for the church to reduce its energy bills?


Dave Nuttycombe,

Law and Disorder: The mismanagement, ineffectiveness, and wholesale incompetence in the city's Office of the Corporation Counsel (OCC) were the buzz even before Joshua S. Wyner and his D.C. Appleseed Center, a nonprofit government-watchdog group, published their all-affirming report. The 50-page document, released Dec. 8, outlines the troubles in the agency, which touts a roster of 200 attorneys and a budget of $48 million — $26 million of which is for settlements and judgments. The corporation counsel operates much like a state attorney general's office and is charged with providing legal advice to the mayor and District government, defending the city against lawsuits, prosecuting some crimes, and protecting abused and neglected children.
U.S. District Court Judge Paul L. Friedman offered his own scathing assessment of the OCC in a Dec. 1 order, arising from a lawsuit against the city that he was hearing: “The appointment of a new Corporation Counsel last year at this time — which was accompanied by promises of more effective case management, more efficient communications between the court and the office and within the office, and general reform — gave the court hope that things might be improving. They are not. The Office of the Corporation Counsel appears to be infected with mismanagement, miscommunication and — frankly — incompetence....”
Read the entire Loose Lips column here:  

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
FRI-SAT: Brett Leake, 8 and 10 p.m. at the Improv, 1140 Connecticut Ave., NW. $15.
TO DEC. 31: Penn & Teller, at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 26, to Friday, Dec. 29, 5 and 9 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 30, and 3 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 31, at the Warner Theater, 513 13th St. NW. $26.50-$41.
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)