In Your Neighborhood, In Your Life
As Ed Barron points out below, the Washington Post's Robert Pierre is doing a
series of articles as a midterm review of Mayor Williams's first term. We've been doing
our own review all along, but this is a good opportunity for us to do it formally. Please
don't generalize, but instead let us know what your personal experience has been in the
past two years. Is your trash being picked up more regularly? Is your recycling picked up
on schedule? Is your street cleaned more frequently? Have the police patrols increased in
your neighborhood? Has your child's school, or the school closest to your home, improved?
How have your relations with the DC government become better or easier, or worse and more
frustrating? Have you noticed any difference?
Its Not Rocket Science
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
Today's (Sunday's) Post, in the Metro Section, describes the mayor's
frustration with the slow pace of progress in fixing the dysfunctional organizations of
the D.C. Government that must provide services to the residents of D.C. The problem with
most of these organizations and Departments is that they are reactive and not proactive.
It seems that most Departments are just waiting around for the next brouhaha and crisis
before they take some remedial actions. It need not be that way. To make organizations
proactive is neither hard nor complicated. It's all a matter of processes.
Every service is really a process. If a team were put in place for each major process
with team members who must make that process happen, and that team established a specific
mission statement with measurable time-oriented goals, then that process team would become
a proactive team. Each measurable goal becomes, in itself, a mini-process. As the team
works off these goals and mini-processes the mission gets accomplished. It's not rocket
The day after my letter appeared in themail to the effect that I hadn't received my
parking sticker along with my renewed registration and tags, I received, to my
astonishment, an E-mail from the director of the DMV, Sherryl Hobbs Newman, who clearly
reads themail. She expressed sympathy and apologized for my difficulties, telling me that
Ms. Alston in her office at 724-2034 could help me.
She also told me that my sticker would arrive separately from my registration renewal
and tags. And indeed, it showed up about a week afterward. This is surely a new policy and
Lorie Leavy, who wrote on the same subject, and I would not have been so panic-stricken if
we had known that the documents would arrive in different mailings. In fact, I found this
out from Kathy Patterson's office when I appealed to them for help.
The DMV needs to make such new policies clear, perhaps by including a message in the
registration renewal that the parking sticker would be mailed separately and would arrive
about a week later. Meanwhile, it appears that the DMV is under concerned and determined
management and this can only be a happy day for our city.
Comparatively Well Off
Jerry Nachison, email@example.com
After 25 plus years in DC (and Rockville at the end), I admit I thought WDC government
could never get any lower (Barry and what Williams has turned out to be). Yet, after eight
months in the "big" world (Tennessee ha), I submit to you that the DC
city council and school board should get good government awards when compared
to the Memphis City School Board (don't have a real feel for the city council yet) and the
Shelby County government, particularly the prisons administration (excuse me, hellhole),
whatever it really is called. Lorton, comparatively you are in great shape! Tell me, is
that not scary?
Practice Makes Perfect
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
Last week was an ideal week to observe just how to remove snow from the streets. The
venue was the Village of Lake Placid in upstate NY, where I was cheating death all week
skiing the slopes of Whiteface mountain. It snowed every day and every night while I was
there, generally about two inches each day and each night. The snow removal crews kept the
village streets and roads into and out of Lake Placid clear at all times. While walking
the icy sidewalks (responsibility of the shop and property owners) of the Village one day,
when the precip was freezing rain and snow mixed, I encountered one of the crews on lunch
break. I stopped to commend them for their fine efforts (which I could hear all night long
on the main street through the village below) to keep the streets so passable. This was a
crew with the right attitude, skill and determination to do the job right. Of course they
get lots of practice. The road leading to the mountain was similarly cleared early each
On the day I left at just after 5 a.m., I drove on roads that had been cleared of a
three inch snowfall (with the snow still falling) and found the roads very clear all the
28 miles to the Northway. There were three plows on that road over that stretch of road
coming from the other direction. I'm sure they made a U turn when they got to
the other end and kept on plowing. Nice to see how well things can be done by folks who
have the right attitude about making things happen.
Does anybody know what happened to the One Step Down? The One Step was one of DC's
legendary Jazz bars. I grew up in that club; when I was too young to drink I was pushed
into the corners and told just to listen. It was one of my first stops when I got back to
DC from the Army. I just tried to call and see who was playing and their phone is
disconnected. If we've lost the One Step we've lost a landmark. There was some wonderful
music made there. Now I'm feeling very sad.
[And where else do you go for live jazz? Any recommendations? Gary Imhoff]
On January 29, the new school board voted to recommend a 12 percent increase in the
DCPS operating budget, with the increase specifically targeted toward making improvements
in several key areas of our public education system. Among these are pre-K programs,
after-school activities and neighborhood partnerships, teacher professional development,
special education, bilingual education, and technology support.
The priorities are sound and these are investments we need to make for our children and
for our city. A small portion of DC's budget surplus would be well-spent on improving our
schools. Our kids are worth it.
The Mayor will consider this budget on Tuesday, February 6, and a public hearing will
be held on that day. I encourage all citizens to support full funding of the school
board's recommendations by (1) calling the Mayor at 727-2980; (2) calling your city
council member with the same message; and (3) attending the hearing on Tuesday from 4 p.m.
- 9 p.m. at One Judiciary Square, Suite 1030 South. Hope to see you there.
Many, if not all, of the branches of the D.C. Public Library have Friends
groups that raise extra cash to give the branches more flexibility in purchasing books and
supplies for library activities. Several, including Friends of Takoma (D.C.) Branch
Library, of which I happen to be president right now, hold book sales in the spring
and/or fall, selling donated books like yours. Damaged or well-worn books, and old
textbooks, are a real problem because we don't have anyone to pass them on to, yet people
have fits when they see ANY books in the library trash. However, if you have "good
reads" in good condition, I am sure we, or a friends group at a branch
closer to you, would be happy to have them.
I am particularly looking for people journalists, professors, who else?
who routinely receive free review books from publishers and who would like to donate them
for our spring sale in early June.
Reply to the One-Can Ban
Kenan Jarboe, email@example.com
Alex McRae raises a number of good points about the one-can ban. I and many
of those who support the singles ban understand the limited purchasing power of some of
our poorer neighbors. In fact, as an economist, I lectured the City Council on this point
during my testimony a few years back in support of the single-sales ban. The sale of
singles to the poor is one more example of the premium that is extracted in our society
from those least able to pay.
However, Mr. McRae's argument confuses the two groups. There are those with low
purchasing power who are victimized by the singles premium. For them, buying a six pack
and taking it home may be an inconvenience and require some saving up the cash but is
economically much better. Then there are those who have "no where to store a six-pack
safely" and use the liquor store as their bar. These are the street alcoholics who
use public parks, public streets and the sidewalks in front of the neighbors of the liquor
establishment as their open-air beer garden and toilet. They buy singles and gladly pay
the premium because they need their alcohol as quickly as they can raise the cash usually
by panhandling to buy it. They are doubly victimized by their alcoholism and the high cash
prices they are forced to accept to feed their addiction. And once drunk, they turn into
the street problems that makes the entire neighborhood the ultimate victims.
Mr. McRae also raised the excellent point about housing and counseling programs. Yes,
those programs are needed and I would point to the excellent example in my neighborhood of
the Community Action Group (CAG). But, as any rehabilitation worker will tell you, the
first step is to get the addict away from the situation involving the drug. By making
singles sales easy and condoning or excusing the behavior of street drinking, we feed the
addiction. Getting singles off the street will help get some of those folks off the street
not all, but some. That to me is a step worth taking.
The Congress and sixteen states approved the failed 1978 Constitutional amendment that
would have granted DC equal Congressional voting rights DC needed 38 states to
support it. Those pushing an Amendment back in the 1800s, or even in the 1920 and 30s,
never saw their idea pass the Congress. Some Congressional voting rights advocates and
Home Rule advocates competed for which proposal they thought was more important. Congress,
of course, did as little as absolutely necessary given the range of proposals. At the time
of the Amendment, President Reagan rode an anti-Washington feeling that was sweeping the
country to the White House (anti-big government blurred with local DC), DC's highest
elected officials seemed to be showing signs of corruption, and crime associated with
crack was starting to rise. On top of that, DC citizens weren't in agreement on the
Amendment -- many statehood supporters who had built a viable movement since 1969,
actively fought local officials who supported it. The amount of resources put into trying
to pass the Amendment through 38 states was not adequate few in the state
legislatures, much less the nation, were even aware of the issue or what to do about it,
if anything. While I would support the concept Timothy Cooper proposes (writing the
amendment to cover equal national voting rights and the right to a republican form of
local self government), DC should not attempt to pass ANY sort of Constitutional amendment
until there has been a great deal of discussion about the three remedies-the assets and
liabilities of each and there is a strong consensus District-wise (and within EACH
Ward) reaching 75% or so. If District citizens have not reached a strong consensus on the
remedy they want (the current 60% for statehood is fairly strong, but not strong enough
30% of DC African Americans and 50% of DC whites oppose statehood), I think it will
be difficult to overcome an even more difficult problem-inertia in Congress and state
legislatures. If DC citizens can't even agree on a proposal, why are they asking Congress
to do something? In the meantime, proponents of different remedies will continue to argue,
and perhaps some others nationally will begin taking positions about what Congress should
do with DC.
Statehood without State Functions: Alaska
Tim Cooper, firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally, on the subject of DC statehood without state functions, it was previously
claimed that such territories as Alaska were far from being able to
financially support themselves at the time of admission into the Union. This was simply
not the case. Alaskan historian Claus M. Naske points out in his comprehensive statehood
study, as detailed in William R. Hunts Alaska: A Bicentennial History, that
it was critical that Alaska get his own economic house in order before
applying for statehood by providing an adequate tax system because, among
other things, [o]n attaining statehood, Alaska would have to assume the burden of
services previously supported by the national government. Naturally, it was not a
straight line from territorial insolvency to state solvency. Indeed, there existed staunch
opposition to the statehood drive by the powerful mining and canning lobbyists as well as
wealthy Alaskans, who felt materially threatened by the prospects of new state taxes.
These were the lords of Seward Peninsula commerce. They thrived on the natural bounty of
the territory and made their bundles of riches because the timid territorial government
refused to impose more reasonable taxes for fear of alienating them, notwithstanding the
rising costs of government.
Hunt describes the skewed economic culture this way with distinct echoes of the
Districts own lopsided relations with its neighbors in Maryland Virginia, who daily
employ the services of the District, yet pay nothing in the form of reciprocal or
non-reciprocal taxes to DC: "Even after territorial Governor Ernest Gruening
guided a tax-reform bill through the legislature in 1949, the special interests still
waxed fat. In 1947, journalist Richard L. Neiberger had described Alaska as the looted
land, a feudal barony where absentee entrepreneurs carried away millions in natural
resources and left virtually nothing in return. Alaskans owned only 38 of the 434 fish
traps licensed by the United States Department of the Interior. The value of the fish pack
in 1946 was $56,571,000, on which the territorial tax was a modest $630,000. Taxes on gear
and traps added to territorial revenues, but the total tax bite was light. That year, the
fishing industry brought 12,484 workers to Alaska and paid them $7,206,000 in wages, none
of which was taxed because the employees were paid at their point of hire, after the
canning season. Alaskans hired by the packing industry that year numbered only 10,965, and
their combined earnings were $3,729,000.
Yet Governor Gruenings new tax legislation that was sent to Juneau and passed by
the Alaskan territorys House and Senate ten years before statehood ever passed the
US Congress "resolved to rectify the scandalous tax situation . . . and modified the
existing business license fee system to provide for taxation of enterprises that had
always escaped taxes previously. In effect, the legislature . . . set the territorial
house in order and prepared Alaska for statehood."
Basic Plus Expanded Local Self-Government
Mark Richards, Dupont East, email@example.com
A main reason that statehood advocates get riled when someone talks about the
District's need for Congressional voting rights without elaboration is that they fear that
JUST that-without the protections of a republican form of local self-government-would
leave the District in the hands of the same disrespectful Congress, of which we would hope
to have 2 of 102 in the Senate and 1 of 435 in the House (or whatever our share would be
according to our population). In other words, if Congress retains unlimited authority to
modify the District's legislative and budgetary priorities at will without a means test or
something, they can simply out vote us, as they've done for 200 years. Sure, we'd have
extra clout. But, historically, District citizens and even presidents have
asked for Congressional restraint on local issues, without much effect. So, local
self-government is a key part of what many in D.C. want, and may be even more important to
many than Congressional voting rights. The advantage of statehood is that they go
hand-in-hand. With this in mind, advocates for full local self-government should be
pleased (?) with two proposals from the Council last week. If the District can't have
statehood now, why not work to move from Basic to Expanded Home Rule (of course, it would
be a legislative solution and could be reversed-so is not the final goal). There is no
need to have four Congressional subcommittees and four Congressional committees overseeing
the District's affairs (this must be quite expensive for taxpayers?). Perhaps for now
there should only be one oversight committee, with both legislative and executive
representation to reduce getting caught in the middle of feuds? And, if there is
Congressional budgetary review, there should be a means test to determine when it is
appropriate for federal intervention (national security issues). I'd like to see the
proposals discussed in much greater detail, because the discussion would be information.
For the next two plus years, District citizens should make every effort to point out to
the ruling Republicans the ways in which they can uphold the principle of local
self-government, the idea of the consent of the governed, and make the District a shining
example of this important concept for the world. Let's lay out the proposals, one-by-one.
Thanks to the Council for taking the lead. (I was a bit shocked to hear Jack Evans
advocating greater levels of Home Rule-perhaps I haven't been listening attentively, but I
think this is one of the few times I've heard my Council member speak on a
democracy-related subject. I'm impressed.)
Based on Sewell Chan's informative Washington Post article on January 25th,
here is some info about the two Council proposals, supported by all 13 members. One
proposal introduced by Jack Evans would allow the mayor to appoint, with council
confirmation, D.C. Superior Court and D.C. Court of Appeals judges-privileges currently
held by the President and the Senate. The merit-based nominating commission method used in
16 states would continue to be used in the District, and the D.C. Judicial Nomination
Commission would continue to select and recommend three candidates for each vacancy. The
other proposal by David Catania would allow voters to elect an attorney general every 4
years. The District attorney general would assume the responsibilities currently held by
the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia: prosecute local felony and serious
misdemeanor offenses. The attorney general would take over the District's civil
proceedings, so the corporation counsel's office would be eliminated. The cost is an
issue, but the Council argues that more important is a fundamental principal of
representative government for a jurisdiction to control the three branches of government.
Jack Evans said that the District will find ways to pay for it phase it in or
something but said citizens shouldn't get hung up on the money, but should stick to
principle. The mayor is evidently not sure he has some financial concerns. (Set up
a organization to raise funds, maybe?!) Evidently the judges themselves would consider
this a step down from being appointed by the president -- and the federal pay scale is
likely to be higher.
Writing Circle: A Sanctuary for Writers; Saturday, February 10, 3-5 p.m., 1836 Kenyon
Street, NW. $20. Theme: "Images of Love." Although we usually think of writing
as a solitary activity, writers actually flourish in supportive community. Writing in a
group can deepen and even transform your writing. Using poetry to trigger our
imaginations, we'll explore images waiting within to come to life on the page. Plenty of
time to write and share in this relaxed setting. No judgments; process is all! Meets the
second Saturday of each month and is sponsored by Institute for Transformation Through the
Arts, Inc., a nonprofit organization. For more info, visit http://www.artsforlife.com or call 667-3766.
Footlights DC's only modern drama discussion group meets monthly to
discuss plays from the modern theater. Participation is free. On Wednesday, February 21,
we'll discuss Taking Sides (1995), by British playwright Ronald Harwood. Based
on a true story, Taking Sides takes place in occupied postwar Berlin. Renowned
symphony conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler flourished under the Nazis. The American military
wants to know why. A triumph (New York Daily News), brave, wise
and deeply moving (London Sunday Times), this surprisingly
entertaining play persuades you to think (New York Times). We
will meet 7:30-9:30 p.m. (dinner at 6:30) at the Delray Vietnamese Garden, 4918 Del Ray
Ave., a few blocks north of the Bethesda metro. Our discussion will feature Holocaust
scholar Rebecca Boehling and music critic Richard Freed. For reservations E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 638-0444 24
hours/day. For general information about Footlights, visit http://www.footlightsdc.org.
You are cordially invited to attend the art exhibit Washington Eros: A Local
Exploration and Celebration of Erotic Art, Thursday, February 8th, 6 p.m. to 10
p.m., Christopher Mark's Restaurant, 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW (across from the Warner
Theater). $10 at the door (one complimentary Mor Vodka cocktail upon arrival served with
select hors d' oeuvres presented throughout the evening).
This supreme social and artistic exhibit of the erotic illuminates the perception of
sexuality through imagery. Voluptuous scenes by local masters of art, such as Coleman and
Mounib, combine with selected hors doeuvres and cocktails to express with finesse
what most find difficult to verbalize. The selections and illustrations of this
thoughtfully arranged and beautifully presented collection are chosen not only to
entertain and inform but also for life-enhancing erotica. This exhibit includes diverse
and outstanding fine art nude, erotic, and sensual photography works by the most noted and
talented artists in Washington
DC today. To R.S.V.P., send full names to email@example.com
with number of persons attending. This is a limited capacity event.
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