Short and to the Point
The way to keep me short and to the point, and to eliminate an opening
rant from me, is for you to send in so many informative missives that
there is no room left for me. You've done it this time.
I purchased a car and went to the DMV on Monday, October 15, to get
license tags for this vehicle. Everyone at the DMV was friendly and
courteous. An employee greets everyone with a smile and directs customers
to the information booth. A second person at the information booth gave me
the proper forms and told me to wait until my number was called. After
waiting one hour my number was called and I proceeded to another window. A
smiling DC government employee informed me that the computer was down and
they could not give me a license tag. She gave me a 30-day temporary tag
and told me with a smile that I will have to repeat the process again when
the computer is working.
The whole process took two hours. Had there been a sign (or had I been
told at the information booth) that license tags were not going to be
issued on that day because of computer problems, many other residents and
I could have avoided wasting two hours.
Later that day, I spoke to a friend who works in Mayor Williams office.
I asked him if everyone in the Mayor's office or City Council had to
register cars in the same manner as us residents. He explained to me that
there is a courtesy know as “Position Privilege.” This means that
anyone who is sufficiently high up in the government can call someone that
they know at the DMV and can get their cars registered or take care of
other DMV issues without having to go through the same procedures that us
citizens must experience when we go to the DMV. Many of the problems at
the DMV would be solved if the city council made the “Position
Privilege” illegal for all city employees and elected officials who
needed to use the services of the DMV.
To demonstrate his commitment to “customer service,” Mayor Williams
created the Office of Customer Services within the Office of the City
Administrator, and appointed his former Deputy Chief of Staff, Lisa
Morgan, to head it. The Office is supposed to “oversee the development,
coordination, and improvement of front line District services” including
“providing residents accessibility to District government agencies”
and “ensuring timely responses to constituent calls, written
correspondence, and requests for services.” (The quotations are from the
DC FY2002 Budget.) On October 2, Mayor Williams held a press conference to
mark the District's first observance of National Customer Service Week.
Awards were given to government employees who “exemplify exceptional
customer service,” and that week 25,000 button pins with the District
flag and the words “thank you,” were handed out to District employees
to celebrate their “improved customer service.”
That's the rhetoric. The reality is the reverse. For years, through the
administrations of Mayors Barry, Kelly, and Williams, I've gone to a wide
variety of District government agencies to get public information, first
as just an involved citizen and now to gather materials for the DCWatch
web site. The DC government today is more closed, more unfriendly to
citizens, and more difficult to get information from than it ever has been
in the past. Just in the past week, for example, I tried to find out why
utility cuts were going to be allowed on my block, only three weeks after
the block had been repaved. After repeated requests over the past two
weeks, Bill Rice, the spokesman for the Transportation Division of DPW,
wouldn't provide me with the applicable regulations, and Dan Tagerlini,
the Division's head, refused to accept or return several telephone calls.
When I tried to get a publicly funded audit from the National Capital
Revitalization Commission, I was stalled for a week before Elinor Bacon,
the NCRC's executive director, wrongly claimed that NCRC didn't have to
provide information to the public and wasn't subject to the Freedom of
Information Act. It took a rather heated argument to get the audit
released. When I asked to file a Freedom of Information request with the
Fire Department, its FOI Officer wanted to require a $10 “FOI filing
fee” that is illegal under District law and is obviously imposed just to
discourage FOI requests. The Fire Department's counsel finally admitted
that the law didn't allow the Department to charge a “filing fee,” but
asked if we couldn't reach a compromise in which I'd pay the fee anyway.
The major problem is that the past week hasn't been unusual; that's the
way things work with “customer service” in today's DC government.
I have recently read a Post article about efforts by Harold
Brazil on behalf of a developer to arrange for Duron Paint to obtain the
lot at the corner of Clifton and 14th Streets, NW. As I follow the story,
the goal is to get Duron Paint to give up its location at 15th and P
Streets, NW, so that the developer that already controls the lot where
Metro Market is on P Street, NW, can obtain the adjacent Duron lot. The
lot at 14th and Clifton is city-owned, and Duron has an option to move,
but company officials were quoted as saying they are extremely happy with
their current location. Thus, Mr. Brazil hopes to make a sweet offer to
Duron to get Duron to move.
Mr. Brazil was quoted in the Post article extolling about a project for
the combined lots to feature retail and some sort of housing (big bucks
condos?). Does Metro Market not qualify as retail? Seems to me that Metro
Market offers services to those who don't want to go to the 17th Street
Safeway or the O Street Giant. I have seen some people shop at both Metro
and Fresh Fields across the street. I fail to understand why 14th and
Clifton might not like more residential and retail development, rather
than a wholesale paint outlet. I am not so sure how the soon-to-be tenants
of the renovated Clifton Terrace (across the street from the empty lot)
will like the crowd of day laborers who congregate at Duron every morning.
It all seems to me to have more to do with Mr. Brazil's and developers'
interests than with anything else. I live three blocks from Clifton and
14th. I doubt wholesale paint is the most needed product in our
neighborhood. And I wonder if Mr. Brazil has a plan to help Metro Market
when it gets booted out of its location.
And now for something that not even our editor has thought to criticize
about the Mayor. In an otherwise unremarkable Northwest Current
article about Mayor Williams conducting a business district walking tour,
we find out that during a stop at Pumpernickel's Deli, the Mayor ordered a
"cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter."
Does this strike anyone else as quite the quirky bagel order? Any
defenders of this taste combination? Is there some bagel preference
Rorschach test that judges personality based on bagel variety and spread
choice? Inquiring minds want to know.
[You're right, I've never criticized the Mayor's taste in food.
However, I seem to recall that political commentators, during one of
Richard Nixon's campaigns for the presidency, said that Mr. Nixon had lost
any chance of winning the votes of New York City residents by ordering his
pastrami on rye with mayonnaise instead of mustard. Surely that is not as
offensive to voters with sensitive palates as peanut butter on a cinnamon
raisin bagel, so I sense political difficulty ahead for Mayor Williams
should this story become widely known. — Gary Imhoff]
The posting a few weeks ago from the man who was offended by speed
limit enforcement on a Sunday morning brought to my mind a question I have
had for the past twenty years of living here. Why is one allowed to
violate all sorts of parking laws on a Sunday if you do it near a church?
For that matter, I know of a few churches that are the destination of
parking violators on other days of the week than Sunday. Not only is
double parking ignored, so is parking in crosswalks and blocking fire
hydrants. In one place, parking in the middle of the street is done
If this practice of police ignoring parking laws was extended to other
denominations I might wonder a little less (not much less but a little)
but I know from personal experience that this practice does not extend to
all religious activity. In particular, I have attended Jewish High Holiday
services where there were prominent notices warning people that illegal
parking would probably result in a ticket. I have also seen where a
synagogue has to go through a bit of red tape to just relax the
two-hour-zone limit during Jewish High Holy Days. (I am talking two days
per year, not every Sunday or any evening there is an event.)
Do DC parking laws have some sort of Sunday exemption? Has anyone ever
had their car blocked by church double parkers? Just wondering.
And God Said, “Let There Be Parking!”
John Whiteside, email@example.com
It was a frustrating Sunday morning. I knew when I parked on Vermont
Avenue late Saturday night that I was likely to be parked in; so I
stumbled out of the house and around the corner at 7:30 Sunday morning to
move my car before the churchgoers arrived. Too late. Thus began five
hours of being trapped by double-parked churchgoers' cars, while I had an
errand to run (ironically, taking my car to trade it in and get a new
one!). I called the Vermont Avenue Baptist Church and one of their
security people met me out by my car. He explained that they give their
members hang-tags to put in their cars when they double-park, so that they
can find them to move their cars if needed. That's better than nothing, I
guess. Unfortunately the cars blocking me in at that point (which were
different cars from the ones there at 7:30 -- apparently people just pull
in and out of the double-parked spaces throughout the day) did not have
these hang tags. The gentleman from Vermont Baptist (who was completely
helpful and polite — I thank him for that) suggested that the cars might
belong to people at Metropolitan Baptist, up the street. I called them and
got a machine.
Eventually someone left and I was able to get out — but this is
ridiculous. Nobody has ever explained to me why laws don't apply when
you're going to church. What are people double-parked in supposed to do if
they have some kind of need to drive somewhere on Sunday morning? Why is
it okay for churchgoers to block nearly every handicapped ramp on the
sidewalks (God hates people in wheelchairs)? Why is it okay that there is
hardly any room for emergency vehicles to get by because of the double
parking? Why is it okay that fire hydrants are blocked? If the parking
laws are so trivial that they can be ignored every week like this, why do
we even have them?
I credit Vermont Baptist for trying to deal with the situation with the
hang tags. But since there's no penalty for just ignoring the law, that's
really not enough. There has to be a solution to this, and the onus is on
the churches to help find it, since they have the special parking needs.
But I am sure that most of us would be glad to help figure out a plan that
lets us come and go from our homes, and help churchgoers come and go as
“No Parking, Tree Work” signs popped up on two entire blocks of
19th Street in Mt. Pleasant this morning, on both sides, to begin in three
days. While I suppose that this is all the notice that is required, since
you're supposed to move your car every 72 hours anyway, I pity anyone
who's on vacation. But apart from that, this is a major inconvenience that
could have been made a lot easier on the residents of our parking-crunched
First, I am sure it won't take them three days to trim two blocks.
Second, I'm sure they won't be working at night, though the signs indicate
it won't be legal to park from 7:00 a.m. the 29th through 3:00 p.m. the
31st. Couldn't they restrict the parking just during daylight hours,
during which there is ample parking on other streets around the
neighborhood? Finally, why not make two passes through each block, and
trim alternating sides of the street, so people at least have somewhere
nearby to park, like the street cleaners?
These measures would make this far less burdensome. The reality is that
our neighborhood cannot absorb the number of parking spots that will be
taken during this time, so people will surely have to park illegally and
be ticketed. A little planning in the implantation of this kind of public
works project would make people a lot less grouchy about it, and probably
make their job easier.
We Did Some Thang Cool
N. Robert Jacobsen, firstname.lastname@example.org
On a positive note, the DC Down Hill Club had a very successful skate
boarding contest, the DC Down Hill Classic (http://www.cyberhood.com/dcdc/mainindex.html),
with riders coming from all over the USA to ride this year in our Zoo.
They really had great help from the city, the Zoo, Adams Morgan Day, and
the MPD Third District staff from top to bottom.
The riders really enjoyed the town, and actually may have left thinking
part of DC is Kool like da beach kind. Next year's contest will be the
third annual. Bring the kids, they'll love to see this.
After School Programs in DCPS
Margot Berkey, John Eaton and JEAP parent, email@example.com
In a recent posting by Andrea Carlson entitled “After School Funding
Distributed Illegally,” John Eaton Elementary school was listed as one
of the DC schools involved in the DHS-funded "After School For
All" program. John Eaton does not have this program. We are only now
beginning to investigate whether we can, or even want to, bring it to the
school. Leaders of the program have told schools that they are not
mandated to include it, but are expected to.
John Eaton has an After-School program that operates as a private
nonprofit organization called “John Eaton Afterschool Program (JEAP).”
It's been around for nearly twenty years and parents pay to enroll their
children. This year about 90 children are enrolled. The JEAP program
offers scholarships to families who cannot afford to pay. Those
scholarship monies are raised by all the families whose children take
part. In fact, right now we are selling cartons of fresh fruit and will
hold a rummage sale on Saturday, October 27 from 10-4. A plant sale was
held last weekend and another will be held in the Spring. We're very proud
of the excellent work of the JEAP program. To learn more about JEAP
contact the director, Ms. Dietra Rogers, at 363-5847.
Too Much DC Democracy, Too Early?
John Vaught LaBeaume, Dupont Circle, firstname.lastname@example.org
I got to know Pete Ross during his impressive underdog campaign for
Ward 2 council member last year, when I came to admire him for his dogged
dedication to District issues that matter to him. But I must respectfully
disagree with Mr. Ross' insistence upon a District free of any political
signs in public space, except during that narrow window of sixty days
before an election.
In his upstart campaign, Mr. Ross discovered what a challenge it was to
face the considerable resources of an incumbent arrayed against him.
Perhaps the most daunting challenge to overcome is that of establishing a
candidate's name identification among the electorate. Most challengers
don't enjoy the luxury of seeing their name in the paper, or their face on
TV (Channel 13) every day, not to mention self-congratulatory
taxpayer-funded, or “franked,” newsletters, as do elected officials.
And considering that District elections garner shamefully scant coverage
in the Post and network TV affiliates (NBC 4's Tom Sherwood being a
commendable exception), the sources from which most folks get their news,
challengers or first-time candidates must seek out other means to
introduce themselves to the public. In DC, a prime medium for this is the
placard affixed to a street lamp. And, of course, it may take more than
sixty days for a previously unknown candidate to get his name out before
the voters (let alone his positions).
Setting aside the inevitable First Amendment concerns raised by this
ban, we in this democracy-deprived District should celebrate the limited
political competition we do enjoy. Remember, before the advent of Home
Rule, no unsightly political placards marred our street lamps here in the
District. So, in a way, you might think of the proliferation of political
signs not as an eyesore, but as a tribute to vibrant District democracy.
I, for one, would be happy to endure the sight of such signs for more than
sixty days every two years.
I sent an E-mail to Scott McLarty, whom I believe is on the executive
committee of the Statehood Green Party, regarding these signs on August
14. Arturo is a Green and has run as a Green in the past. The only thing
Scott said in his reply was “thanks for the heads up” and he cc:ed
Arturo at three E-mail addresses. I took that to mean that he would take
care of it. The fact that posters are still up means that the Greens are
aware of it and are probably doing it deliberately.
It is funny because I thought about simply reporting them. I decided
against it because I find that level of politics too bitter. Furthermore,
I thought it a bit distasteful to use posters as a way to try to embarrass
someone politically. Even if Arturo did not put them up and does not know
who put them up they are posters that his campaign paid for and that use
his name. I would think he and his party would accept responsibility for
seeing to it that they come down. It is a shame that an early warning
seems to have been ignored.
On another note, I want to give Pete Ross kudos. Earlier this year I
dropped him an E-mail about a poster of his that was still up in my
neighborhood. He was very apologetic and a few days later the sign was
removed (I would have taken it down myself but it was up to high). I wish
we received the same level of support from every candidate.
Since this is a recurring theme, here are the DC Municipal Regulations
on posters, including campaign posters. There is an exemption from the
60-days rule for political campaigns; however, the people posting are
required to file them.
24-1-108. SIGNS, POSTERS, AND PLACARDS
108.1 No person shall affix a sign, advertisement, or poster to any
public lamppost or appurtenances of a lamppost, except as provided in
accordance with this section.
108.2 The placing of any advertisement on any tree in public space is
108.3 No poster or placard shall be publicly displayed or exhibited if it
is lewd, indecent, or vulgar, or if it pictorially represents the
commission of or the attempt to commit any crime.
108.4 Any sign, advertisement, or poster that does not relate to the sale
of goods or services may be affixed on public lampposts or appurtenances
of a lamppost, subject to the restrictions set forth in this section.
108.5 A sign, advertisement, or poster shall not be affixed for more than
sixty (60) days, except the
a) Signs, advertisements, and posters of individuals seeking political
office in the District who have met the requirements §210 of the D.C.
Campaign Finance Reform and Conflict of Interest Act (D.C. Code §1-1420
(b) Signs designed to aid in neighborhood protection from crime shall be
exempt from the sixty (60) day time period.
108.6 Political campaign literature materials shall be removed no later
than thirty (30) days following the general election.
108.7 Each sign, advertisement, or poster shall contain the date upon
which it was initially affixed to a lamppost.
108.8 Each sign, advertisement, or poster shall be affixed securely to
avoid being torn or disengaged by normal weather conditions.
108.9 Signs, advertisements, and posters shall not be affixed by adhesives
that prevent their complete removal from the fixture, or that do damage to
108.10 No more than three (3) versions or copies of each sign,
advertisement, or poster shall be affixed on one (1) side of a street
within one (1) block.
108.11 Within twenty-four (24) hours of posting each sign, advertisement,
or poster, two (2) copies of the material shall be filed with an agent of
the District of Columbia so designated by the Mayor. The filing shall
include the name, address, and telephone number of the originator of the
sign, advertisement, or poster.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Teach-in on Housing Bills
Betty Sellers, email@example.com
On Thursday, November 1, at 6:30 p.m., in the Chapel at 1419 V Street,
NW, the Washington Legal Clinic for the Homeless will hold a teach-in to
prepare for a Public Roundtable on Bill 14-183, “HomeStart Financial
Incentives Act of 2001” and Bill 14-260, “Downtown Housing Production
Tax Incentives Act of 2001.” Learn what these bills will or will not do
to increase affordable housing in the District and get information to help
you prepare testimony for the Council Committee on Finance and Revenue
Public Roundtable. The Council Committee on Finance and Revenue will hold
the public roundtable at 5:00 p.m., Tuesday, November 6, in Council
Chambers at One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW. To register to
testify at the roundtable, call Schannette Grant (724-8058) to sign up
before 12:00 noon on Friday, November 2, 2001. Council member Jack Evans
chairs the Finance and Revenue Committee. For more information about the
teach-in, call 872-1494 or 332-8800.
Tour of Washington, DC, Churches
Paula Mohr, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Latrobe Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians presents
a survey of Washington's little-known churches, a tour led by Pamela
Scott, Saturday, November 3, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. $45 for Latrobe
Chapter members, $60 for nonmembers, $45 for students (with ID). Lunch is
included. Space is limited and reservations are required. To register and
for information, call 301-654-3924. Detailed directions will be mailed to
Washington's religious monuments are well known, but its neighborhoods
are also home to more than 700 purpose-built places of worship that have
served local congregations over the last two centuries. The Latrobe
Chapter's fall tour will visit at least five churches in out-of-the-way
neighborhoods and drive by and discuss some fifty places of worship en
route. Architectural historian Pamela Scott has chosen representative
examples that show the range of work by local architects (Maurice Moore;
Appleton P. Clark, Jr.; and Frederick V. Murphy) as well as specialists in
American ecclesiastical architecture (Charles W. Bolton and Son from
Philadelphia and Maginnis and Walsh from Boston). The tour will conclude
with a drive down 16th Street from the District line to the White House,
identifying each place of worship by original congregation and architect.
White House and Wedding Calligraphers
Lorraine Swerdloff, email@example.com
White House and wedding calligraphers will be demonstrating the art of
elegant writing at Holiday Calligrafest, the Washington Calligraphers
Guild’s annual calligraphy craft fair and show, Saturday, November 3,
10-4 at the Douglas Community Center, 407 E. Market Street (Rt. 7),
Leesburg, VA. Calligrafest features hand-lettered artwork and gifts, art
supplies and books, continuous demonstrations, and an exhibit of Graceful
Envelope Contest winners. Admission $5. Call 301-897-8637 or see http://www.calligraphersguild.org.
CLASSIFIEDS — MUSICIANS WANTED
Forming a New Folk/Rock Group
Phil Shapiro, firstname.lastname@example.org
Some friends and I are forming a new folk/rock group to revisit and
revive some of the classic folk songs from the '60's and '70's. Cat
Stevens, Carole King, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Neil Young, Paul Simon, etc.
We're currently on the lookout for a female vocalist, male vocalist, cello
player, flutist and harmonica player. Do please send me an E-mail message
if you know of dc-area person with hidden musical talent needing to be
CLASSIFIEDS — VOLUNTEERS
Any Hip Chemists/Physicists/Engineers Among You?
Floyd Johnson, email@example.com
I'm trying to figure out how to get our town's most underserved
students to get into math and physics as the backbone of a career. At risk
of sounding as divisive as Marion S. Barry, these tend to be predominantly
African-American, and are less likely to have such academia marketed to
them. My agenda is to establish an accessible citywide science club. My
plan is not even at Square One yet, but I believe someone who majored in
chemistry/physics/engineering could go hand-in-hand with the school system
in bringing about a Young Scientists organization. Having majored in
computer science, and thus taken some physics courses, I would only be a
functionary to this person or persons.
I put this to you because of your concern for Washington's future. I
also believe you can supply names and numbers, as well as logistical
advice. My hope is that our interaction can be a step toward improving the
lot of the townsfolk.
Community Council for the Homeless
Diane Aten, firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteers are needed to help the homeless. Opportunities include
receptionist, shelter volunteers, meal delivery, the Help the Homeless
Walkathon on Saturday November 17th, and more. Receptionist coverage is
currently our greatest need. Commitment time and hours are flexible.
Contact David Camporeale, Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship
Place's volunteer coordinator, at 314-1419 ext. 23. Another way you can
help is through participation in events. One upcoming event is the SOS
(Sing Out for Shelter) a cappella concert on November 30th at 8:00 p.m.,
featuring The Augmented Eight, The Princeton University Nassoons,
Philomela (American University) and other singing groups. If you would
like to buy/and or sell tickets, please call Diane Aten at 364-1419 ext
CLASSIFIEDS — BUSINESS SERVICES
Government Contract Certification Seminars
Arthur Jackson, email@example.com
The AHG group will host all-day seminars on government contract
certification for small, minority, and women-owned business in November.
The seminars are designed to assist small, minority, and women-owned
businesses in acquiring certification to bid on government contracts. They
will cover how to begin the process of preparing the certification
package, monitor upcoming contracts, find a joint venture partner, license
your business, and market and promote your business in a economic
downturn. To register, call 508-1059 or E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you need a manager for your estate or multifamily property? A
business management consultant seeks estate sitting or multifamily unit
building management position. Live-in and bartering considered. Call Mr.
Jackson, 508-1059, or E-mail email@example.com.
CLASSIFIEDS — RECOMMENDATIONS
In response to the inquiry about salons in the DC area: 1) Cafe Philo
meets biweekly to discuss philosophy. Future topics are decided by
majority vote. Contact Ken Feldman at KenFPhilo@aol.com
or 703-751-5958. 2) Footlights meets monthly to discuss modern drama.
Plays follow a seasonal theme (e.g., "Arts and Sciences"). Go to
www.footlightsdc.org. 3) A few
years ago, there was a salon network in the DC area. At least as of 1998,
contact info was http://www.utne.com/salons/dc,
[The web site link in point (3) isn't currently operative, and I can't
find any listing of salons on the Utne web site. Does anyone have updated
information? — Gary Imhoff]
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
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