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August 22, 2001

The Story So Far

Dear Faithful Listeners:

When last we visited Happy Valley, the Inspector General had begun investigating an illegal fundraising operation in the Mayor's office. As faithful listeners with long memories will recall, the Mayor's office set up phony nonprofit organizations to solicit political donations and used preexisting nonprofit organizations, like the Church Association for Community Service, to funnel donations to its political causes. This hid the contributions from public inspection and allowed political contributors to get illegal tax deductions. When the operation was exposed, the Mayor's office hoped to place the blame on lower-level staffers, and to cut off any evidence that the Mayor or his Chief of Staff directed the fundraising, or even that they knew where the money was coming from.

After numerous press reports, the Mayor asked the Inspector General to conduct an investigation. This kept the bad news out of the public eye for six to eight months, and gave the Mayor's office an excuse not to open any of its records to the public. But now the IG's investigation is done, and the report is almost ready to be released. This has been a top-secret, closed-door report — absolutely confidential, and certainly not to be shared with the targets of the investigation. So, dear listeners, imagine the surprise when at his staff meeting on Monday the Mayor discussed the report's findings with his top-level office staff. He told them that they would take some hits from the press when the results were disclosed, but assured them that it would just be a one- or two-day story, quickly forgotten by the public.

And so, dear listeners, as we open today's episode, new questions have been raised -- who leaked the findings to the Mayor? Were the final findings all that were shared with the Mayor's office in the course of the investigation? How independent was the investigation all along? Stay tuned for more exciting developments in our continuing story.

Gary Imhoff


Larry Seftor,

My wife and I got up this morning, looked at each other, and realized that we are both suckers. It turns out that, according to the Post, only 1 in 5 of those summoned to Superior Court for jury duty actually appear. Whether it is because of bad mailing lists or just people who blow off their summons, that means that my wife and I and the rest of the suckers have to appear 5 times as often as would otherwise be the case. Superior Court Judge Rufus King may do a good job in fairly administering justice to those who appear before the bench. But he certainly doesn't do a fair job in treating citizens who are willing to do their public duty. It may be too much to wish for, but a little integrity would go a long way here.


It’s the Management, Stupid, Part 3
Jonetta Rose Barras,

[Parts 1 and 2 appeared in my past Loose Lips columns.] Maybe Mayor Anthony A. Williams can be forgiven for some things that have not quite hung together during his three years as leader of the nation's capital city. But it's hard to fathom the former chief financial officer's not understanding the importance of his agency directors' collecting every nickel on the street. Well, in this case, on the sidewalk. But that's exactly what's happening. Dozens of sidewalk cafes throughout the District are breaking city laws that require them to secure a license from the Department of Transportation's (DOT) Public Space Office, an occupancy permit from the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), and a license or variance from the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) Board. The businesses are required to renew their certificate of use annually, and pay an annual rental fee. In Adams Morgan, alone, there are more than two dozen businesses that appear to have violated the law during the past six months. Among the scofflaws is the Diner (which is owned by the head of the Adams Morgan Business Association), the Blue Room, Crush, Columbia Station, Toulouse, Jyoti , Rocky's and Cashion's Eat Place, according to a list obtained from the DOT. Actually nearly all of the business along 18th Street from Florida Avenue, NW, to Columbia Road; and on Columbia Road from Connecticut Avenue to 16th Street, appear to be in violation. The city is losing tens of thousands of dollars in fees for the private use of public space. If violations are this widespread in one area, what's happening in other neighborhoods and downtown?

Last month, following a push from a couple of Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners and a week of telephone calls by yours truly, during which I was shuffled between the DCRA and the DOT, the Williams administration finally realized that it was supposed to be managing the proliferation of sidewalk cafes and, yes, collecting the fees. Denise Turner, a spokesperson for the Public Space Office, calls the matter a "preexisting problem," which would be an acceptable excuse if this were year one, rather than year three, of the Williams administration. She says that she has begun an evaluation since the problem was brought to the agency's attention. She doesn't know how much money the city has lost because of its failure to enforce its own laws. And she says that, “We have to look at our options; we're asking for input from all the stakeholders.” Which leaves me wondering: when did District bureaucrats decide to ask people who owe taxes and fees whether they want to pay? Does this mean that next week we can all weigh in on whether we want to pay our parking tickets or income taxes?

Meanwhile some folks are trying to figure out just what is happening at the city's Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), where Stan Jackson, the former chief of staff of the chief financial officer, recently took over. Jackson, who is respected for his work in the financial cluster, doesn't have a background in housing and economic development. But instead of selecting a second-in-command who could compensate for that apparent shortcoming, Jackson has selected Carlynn Fuller as his second in command. Fuller was passed over as the head of DCRA, where she had worked for nearly a year in an interim capacity. Does this mean the Williams administration demands excellence for big business, and, well, second best for neighborhood development? One last thing: the facts are finally being revealed about the departure of DHCD's former director, Milton Bailey. Bailey received high marks from residents and some businesses, but was targeted for removal by community development corporations (CDCs) because he demanded that they perform for the hundreds of millions of dollars they receive from the local and federal governments. Sources at One Judiciary Square say that after Bailey suspended a couple of CDCs the mayor's office received a visit from business leader Dana Stebbins. Stebbins talked, and Bailey walked. Will Jackson withstand that kind of political interference?


Political Potpourri
Dorothy Brizill,

Over the past three years, Mayor Williams has often complained about how difficult it is to attract people to fill top positions in the District government, and frequently blamed the “low salaries” in DC government and the press and public scrutiny of government bureaucrats. But perhaps greater blame should be placed on how people are treated in the Williams administration. Continuing a practice he used when he served as Chief Financial Officer, Williams often fires people mercilessly. With no warning and no opportunity for discussion, victims are summoned to the Chief of Staff's office and told to resign or be fired that very day. They are then escorted, usually by security guards, back to their offices, where they are watched while they pack their personal possessions, and then they are marched to the front door of One Judiciary Square. So ended Darlene Taylor's last day on the job as Director of Williams's Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, last Friday. Do you think people consider this kind of treatment when they contemplate working for the DC government?

After being on the job for three weeks, Kelvin Robinson, the mayor's new chief of staff from Tallahassee, has reorganized the Executive Office of the Mayor. Under the plan, Gregory McCarthy, Director of the Office of Policy and Evaluation, will also handle relations with the Council, Congress, and the federal government. Robinson himself will serve as the Mayor's principal lobbyist, and he is already bragging that he will garner the required seven Council votes to pass any administration initiative. Although the reorganization plan has been distributed and discussed widely on the eleventh floor of One Judiciary, don't try to get a copy of it. Tony Bullock, the Mayor's interim press secretary, claims that the plan doesn't exist -- which is absolute confirmation that it does.

Paula Perelman will become Executive Secretary to the School Board on September 4, the third Executive Secretary the Board has had in the nine months since January. Perelman, a DCPS employee since 1985, has held a variety of positions, including senior aide to Superintendents Franklin Smith and General Julius W. Becton. She also served as General Counsel and Chief of Staff for the Control Board's Emergency Transitional Education Board of Trustees. Perelman will be paid $94,000. (Resume at


Rolling Emergency Room Blackouts
David Catania,

Dorothy Marschak experienced an atrociously long wait and other difficulties when she recently visited the Washington Hospital Center's Emergency Room. She wrote about this experience in themail on August 20, asking, "Is anyone collecting statistical information as to what the consequences of the shutdown of DC General are?" We are.

My office has been compiling statistics monitored by the D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department, and those statistics demonstrate that Ms. Marschak's experience is hardly unique. Sadly, it is all too common. The Fire & EMS Department totals hours in which emergency rooms are not available to ambulance traffic. (Typically, the emergency room remains open when this occurs, but not to ambulances.) The closure/diversion rates are a good shorthand measure of how overloaded our area's emergency rooms are. There are numerous reasons why this can occur even under ideal circumstances, and the situation was not unheard of prior to April 2001. Since the signing of the contract with Greater Southeast Community Hospital, however, the situation has taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

A summary of our findings can be found on my web site at There you'll find three charts, each proving a substantial increase in diversions and closure since April. As I wrote above, the closure and diversion rates are a good shorthand measure of the situation at our hospitals, but they are useless without details like those from Ms. Marschak. If you have any questions about the health care system, or if you have your own experiences to share, please contact my office at 724-7772.


Greater Southeast
Melissa Williamson,

My sister worked at Greater Southeast as a PRN contract nurse. After three weeks of doing contract work she has decided to call it quits.

She describes poor patient care, doctors who do not visit patients, and nurses who are uncaring and overworked. Patients are allowed to stay in bed all day. For example a gentleman who had undergone surgery was not taken out of his bed for two weeks. While she has not witnessed any deaths from neglect she has indicated that it is bond to happen anytime soon. Greater Southeast is not prepared to handle the new influx of patient care. Has the Mayor done a walk through to see how the new system is working. My sister has reported that nurses have to mix there own prescriptions and that equipment failure is commonplace. Do the residents of the District of Columbia deserve this sort of treatment? I think not. Mr. Mayor please take a walk though to see what you have paid for!


Being an Oregonian Again
Wendy Stengel,

The thought of being an Oregonian again after eleven years lacking Congressional representation does bring a warm glow to my heart. However, Oregon does have income tax. No sales tax, though; is that enough to commend it?


Water and Sewer
Mark Richards, Dupont East,

In the recent floods, some District residents learned a bit about the water and sewer system. Here’s some info, mostly drawn from Wilhelmus B. Bryan’s A History of the National Capital, from 1914. Until 1831, DC citizens got their water from "the rich gifts of nature of underground springs." At that time, water was brought to federal buildings from a spring two miles north of the capitol and from springs in Franklin Park. As the population grew and water supplies became tighter, some residents tapped into the federal flow. Until 1850, the sewers from the White House and federal buildings in that area drained onto the mall “where the flow stagnated and made a marsh.” (Now you know the real reason people imagined a "swamp" there.) In 1851, sewers were directed down 17th Street to the canal. The sewers from the post-office and patent office crossed 9th St. and dumped into a branch of the Tiber Creek. City leaders were concerned because the waterways were unfenced and people occasionally fell in. The city first built sewers for drainage purposes by enclosing open streams into brick conduits. In 1860, a third of Washington City sewage drained into the city canal through these surface drains. Luckily, Bryan reported, “there was no outbreak of disease until the spring of 1857. . . . It was caused by poisonous gases from obstructed sewers and was confined in its extent to those in the building.” Bryan says the relative “good health of the city” was because residents used the box rather than vault privies. “Night soil” was dumped away from population concentrations at 15th and R, NW, until in 1855 it was taken to 14th and Florida and Georgia Ave. to be treated for "agricultural purposes." (Yards in these areas may have mighty rich soil!)

Between 1853 and 1863, the Washington Aqueduct System -- composed of a conduit, two sedimentation reservoirs, and water mains -- was constructed. Montgomery C. Meigs of the US Army Corps of Engineers was chief engineer. The total cost was about three and one-half million dollars, but problems with getting approval for funding, malaria, the Civil War, etc. delayed construction. The Aqueduct System was expected to last 200 years, but capacity was rapidly exceeded. We can thank "Boss" Shepherd was installing sewage services to DC residents. From 1871 to 1873, he and the Board of Public Works built 80 miles of sewers, the B Street Canal and Tiber Creek were covered, and the open trench know as the James Creek Canal was provided to carry sewage from South Capitol to the Anacostia River. The Army Corps added the McMillan Park Reservoir and the Washington City Tunnel (10 meters in diameter and 4 miles long) between 1882 and 1902. In 1905, a slow-sand water-filtration method was added at the McMillan Reservoir, and additional improvements were continually made. In 1918 the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission (WSSC) was formed after DC residents had started complaining about “fouling streams within the Nation’s Capital by waste from Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties” ( Over the years, a regional system was developed. According to Dr. Myron Uman, until 1938 when the Blue Plains treatment plant ( was completed (for DC and MD suburbs), raw sewage was dumped into the rivers. Even after that, the system was overburdened and raw sewage was — and is — still dumped into the rivers from time to time. Even so, conditions are better now than before. Uman said that in the 1970s treatment technology was improved and recreational boating and bass fish returned to the river. By the early 1980s, bottom vegetation returned and fish populations increased.


WASA Worked
Howard Ways, Office of Planning,

Kudos to Libby Lawson of WASA for getting a water meter manhole cover replaced in less than twenty-four hours a couple of weeks ago. The hole was in a very heavily pedestrian traveled section of Minnesota Avenue and was an extreme safety risk.


D.C. Entertainers
Don Lief,

Uh-oh... None of those hallowed entertainers [“Still Performing After All These Years,” August 19] were from DC. Did that violate your ground rules on comment? Can't argue with, indeed I applaud, your choices except possibly Wally Cox. However, if you zero in on DC musical entertainers, consider such as Al Jolson, Duke Ellington (and his original band members), Kate Smith, John Philip Sousa, Charlie Rouse, Sonny Stitt, and many guys who played in bands like Woody Herman's and Stan Kenton's. Others gigged often in DC like Emmylou Harris, Roberta Flack, etc., etc.

When the demise of One Step Down was noted last year, it made me wonder where to hear local jazz when I visit DC.


The Sale of WDCU
Tom Sherwood,

Re the sale of WDCU. The fault, blame or praise (most believe the former) lies squarely with then-Control Board Chairman Andrew Brimmer. He approved the sale to C-Span for about $13 million. It was part of the plan to erase the UDC financial problems. Then-CFO Anthony Williams supported the sale. But for most people, it was a tragic loss to UDC and the local, multicultural, and gospel communities of hometown Washington. Think of the number of students who learned something of broadcasting, radio, etc. who have not been taught. What's that worth?


Stephanie Faul,

Before it was WDCU it was WGTB — now that was a great radio station!


Techie Life after the Flood
Gabe Goldberg,

Watching recent storm/flood events, with people not so far from me devastated by damage, it's been hard to imagine what they're going through. Diane Lee Schulz's note made it clear that recovery isn't over when the rain stops and the sun shines. Coincidentally, I'm writing an article for the Post on personal disaster preparation and recovery regarding home technology: PCs, networks, etc., perhaps even other home electronic equipment. I'm interested in hearing what people have done to prevent damage, how people recover/repair/replace damaged equipment. How do stores, manufacturers, insurance companies, landlords, whoever, handle damaged/ruined expensive equipment? Any lessons learned, wish-I'd-known, wish-I'd-done, insights to share?

Compared to what's happened recently, I had a small event a few years ago: several cartons of records suffered water damage. I've carted them through several moves, haven't yet investigated having them reconditioned. Since the record jackets warped and bonded to the records, I suspect that the records are either ruined or beyond economic recovery. Any insights or experiences with that sort of damage would be relevant. Please reply directly to in addition to the list, so I can be sure of catching all responses.


Flood Clean Up with Clorox
Victoria McKernan,

Just a brief but vital addendum to the recent flood cleanup advice. Sloshing Clorox around is a good way to disinfect, but please don't mix it with any other cleaners, particularly ammonia, or anything with ammonia in it. This creates a poisonous gas which, in a confined space like a basement, could kill you.


On DC Statehood and the Constitution
Tom Matthes,

George S. LaRoche asks, “Mr. Matthes, why do you think statehood requires a constitutional amendment?” First, Article One, Section Eight empowers Congress to exercise “exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsover” over the capital district and this power must be removed by constitutional amendment for DC to have a legitimate state legislature, even if a future Congress and president vote to detach part of it as a state. As a practical matter, such a state would be in danger of being nullified by a future Congress every two years. Second, the Constitution only enumerates specific powers to the federal government and denies it all other powers, so Congress only has the power to assume jurisdiction over the capital district, not the power to use that district to create new states. That lack of power holds even if Maryland consents to DC statehood, unless the Constitution is amended. The congressional power over the capital district is not plenary; it is granted for the sole purpose of making Congress independent of any state, a power compromised by creating a state out of all or part of the national capital and a matter of concern to every other state in the Union.

As to which authorities support this viewpoint, there is no authority higher than the plain words and intent of the Constitution, the “supreme law of the land,” which every US legislator, executive, civil servant, soldier, sailor, judge and justice is bound by oath to uphold. While I have not consulted him, I endorse the “thick constitution” described by Georgetown Law Professor Mark Tushnet, who holds that the judiciary has little to add to certain basic parts of the Constitution. To repeat, he has not endorsed my constitutional viewpoint and I do not necessarily endorse all his views.



1991 Infiniti
Trudy Reeves,

1991 Infiniti G20 -- 4-door deluxe sedan, 106,000 miles. Good, safe, dependable car, runs well, some body damage, passes DC inspection. $3,600 or best offer. 364-8897,



Audio Equipment
Michael Johnson,

Does anyone out there know where I might find a used turntable, amplifier/tuner, and a set of speakers? I've been looking for a while with no luck.



Parking Space Needed in Dupont
Hillary Brill,

I am in need of a parking space near 17th and Q. Please contact me at



Volunteer Assistance Corps in Chevy Chase
E. James Lieberman,

Perhaps Zeke’s house in Chevy Chase would arouse less turmoil and even encourage neighborhood pride if more people were aware of VAC, the Volunteer Assistance Corps. Hosted and sponsored by the Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church since 1980, VAC helps people obtain documents needed for jobs (birth certificate; non-driver’s ID), transportation to new jobs, social service referrals, clothing, and food. The clients are mostly homeless, many in recovery and/or in transition from the corrections system back to independent living. VAC is open four mornings a week (closed Thursday and weekends), and serves the first 12 individuals who come — and they come from all around, mostly from the district, some two or three bus rides away. Each year over 1,500 individuals are assisted by a group of volunteers supervised by the director, a professional social worker.

Most clients come only once or twice. All but a few come from the inner city, from shelters or halfway houses or the streets. The vast majority are courteous and considerate. Rarely is there a problem, and then only minor ones. VAC exemplifies the workability of social service programs in diverse settings. Hundreds of people who have no other reason to come to Chevy Chase are served there, in a setting of dignity, comfort and practical value. It goes without saying that this is an appropriate function for a house of worship wherever it may be. Chevy Chase Presbyterian Church is proud of VAC and the Chevy Chase community can be also. Your support is invited for the Help the Homeless Walkathon sponsored by Fannie Mae, to take place downtown on the Mall, on Saturday, November 17, 2001. For further information call 363-4817.


Political Outsider to Challenge Mayor Williams's Ex-Aide in Ward 8 Race
Arthur Jackson,

Denise Covington Lewis, a wife, mother, and activist against ineffective government, is challenging Mayor Tony Williams's ex-aide for Gay, Lesbian and Transsexual Gender Affairs, Phillip Pannell, for the presidency of the Ward 8 Democrats. Covington Lewis, a leader in the Coalition to Save D.C. General Hospital, shocked Ward 8 Democrats on Saturday August 18, when she announced she is challenging the Mayor's candidate, Phil Pannell, based on the need to stop the pushing of low and fixed income African Americans out of Ward 8 and the William's Administration failure to address issues of concern to the people of Ward 8, such as D.C. General Hospital, closing of Ward 8 Public Clinics, decaying schools, holdup of the awarding of a contract for management of the Senior Citizens Wellness Center and the closing/elimination of 5,000 affordable housing units for low to fixed income African Americans in Ward 8.

Phil Pannell is expected to run on a handpicked slate organized by Mayor Williams's advisors, and this slate will be challenged by a coalition of organizations, tenant and health care activists opposed to Mayor Williams's handpicking a President and Officers of Ward 8 Democrats. The election is scheduled for Saturday, September 15th, and volunteers are needed to transport elderly and physically challenged residents to the polls. Contact Ward 8 Democratic State Committeemember, Arthur H. Jackson, Jr., 508-1059 or E-mail


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