Sorry Kids, No Snow Day Tomorrow
Thanks for keeping us on our toes. An alert reader suggests that,
according to FCC regulations, only public television stations and
stations run by educational entities can accurately be referred to as
“educational television stations,” and that the cable-satellite
stations like Discovery are commercial ventures. But that raises another
question: in the age of cable and satellite television, what is the role
of public television? When several entire stations are dedicated to
news, science, history, arts, and children's programming, what does a
public television station have to offer that is unique? I'll accept the
answer that it's broadcast, so that you don't have to subscribe to cable
or satellite to get it. It seems to me, though, that the main difference
is that public television stations are able to serve local markets,
rather than a national market, and can do locally oriented programming.
But, at least in DC, neither WETA nor WHUR does much at all to produce
or air programming specifically aimed to serve this city, and WETA seems
particularly uninterested in doing so. Am I wrong?
Government officials have been grumbling about Dorothy's
characterization of the events of September 11, claiming that if only
she knew what had gone on in their secret operations that day and in
their private meetings since, she would be impressed with how well the
DC government had responded. Yeah, sure. That's why they keep the story
of their splendid and heroic reactions so quiet, and why they testified
to a Connie Morella's Congressional committee on November 2 that they
still were working on a draft plan; so that citizens won't be overly
Tomorrow, Monday, the City Council Committee on Economic Development
will hold a hearing on the reappointment of John Richardson as chairman
of the Sports and Entertainment Commission. Debby Hanrahan will testify
on behalf of the DC Statehood Green Party, and she has sent us her
testimony early. Debby points out that the Sports Commission has
promoted a new baseball stadium and the bid for the 2012 Olympics, and
has signed a contract to hold an annual multi-day auto racing event just
outside RFK Stadium for the next ten years, and that neither the Sports
Commission, the Council, nor any public body held any public hearing or
forum to discuss these projects. She asks, “What has happened to open
and representative government when the public is denied any voice in
decisions of this magnitude? Decisions that affect our fiscal health,
our environment, our quality of life? It's not enough to say that the
desires of the commission and certain city officials to have a baseball
stadium and the 2012 Olympics have been covered in the press. That's not
how democracy is supposed to work.” No, but that's how the Sports
Commission is supposed to work. The people of DC are here to pay the
bills, not to have a voice in the important decisions.
It’s Not Money
Ed T. Barron, firstname.lastname@example.org
Read George Will's column in the Sunday (6 January) Post to
see some very interesting statistics. The DC School System has the
fourth highest per pupil spending in the entire country. At the same
time DC ranks 49th out of 51 in the State rankings for SAT scores. The
problem is not the money. Will blames single parent (and presumably also
dysfunctional) families for this apparent dichotomy. Interestingly two
states that spend among the lowest amounts per pupil on education —
North and South Dakota (41st and 48th, respectively) — both rank in
the top 5 in SAT proficiency. No, the problem is not money.
To fix the problems in DC, replacing the majority of classroom
teachers and the majority of school principals with high quality
instructors and administrators are two areas that would produce the most
benefits. If the problems of dysfunctional families could be solved, it
is likely that the incredibly high levels of spending on special
education (which is bleeding the school system dry) would dramatically
decrease. That would permit a lot of money to be used in hiring better
classroom teachers and more effective high school principals.
CRS Report on the Horizon
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, email@example.com
As one of the Senate and House conferees in DC’s FY 2002
Appropriations bill, Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA) requested and other
Members agreed to and directed the Congressional Research Service (CRS)
to “analyze the differences and similarities in municipal, state, and
national government, including funding, management, oversight, and the
rights of citizens, in the District of Columbia and ten other comparable
national capitals.” They requested that the report be submitted to the
House and Senate Committees on Appropriations not later than March 31,
2002. I am very pleased that Congressman Fattah took the lead on this.
This suggests there are Congressional leaders who are interested in
looking more carefully at the facts of DC’s status. The best source
that I am aware of for comparative information on DC compared to other
national capitals is Professor Charles Wesley Harris of Howard
University. I believe Canberra, Australia, and Brasilia, Brazil, are the
Capital Districts most comparable to DC (they are both federal Districts
modeled after DC). Both amended their Constitution to grant their
Capital District citizens the same rights as citizens who live in states
while respecting a clearly defined federal interest, a sort of implicit
or de facto statehood. Timothy Cooper and Professor Harris have both
written about this remedy.
To read about the Constitutional Clause that has tied DC in knots for
two centuries, see http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/tocs/a1_8_17.html.
Mayor Williams announced on December 9, 2001, that the Board of
Directors of the National League of Cities (NLC) had approved a
resolution in support of DC voting rights as a permanent part of its
legislative agenda: http://www.washingtondc.gov/mayor/news/release.asp?id=279&mon=200112.
The organization’s full membership was expected to give final approval
to the measure, but I haven’t seen information on that. The League
will be back to DC in March 5-12 for its Congressional City Conference.
Vivian Henderson, VHende firstname.lastname@example.org
I mailed some letters on November 28 to Silver Spring, MD, and they
have yet to arrive. The Post Office replied to my inquiry with
"give it time to be returned to you." My husband was just
informed that his Washington Post payment, which was also mailed
in early November, has not arrived. I have seen nothing in the papers
about the mails recently, so assumed we were back to normal. Has anyone
else had a problem in this area?
Youth Science Project Expands from San Francisco to DC
Phil Shapiro, email@example.com
A minute ago I spotted an interesting news article about a youth
science project in San Francisco that is expanding to the Latin American
Youth Center, in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC. For those of
you who take an interest in youth matters, the article can be found at: http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-exp-science-workshops0106jan06.story?coll=sns%2Dap%2Dnationworld%2Dheadlines
The web site of the Latin American Youth Center is at http://www.layc-dc.org/,
and the Columbia Heights neighborhood web site (one of the oldest
neighborhood web sites in the nation) is at http://www.innercity.org.
Kudos to the National Science Foundation for funding the above-mentioned
initiative: http://www.nsf.gov. It's
been my experience that the NSF represents some of the best of
government in action.
For what it's worth, I agree that people should lighten up about the
so-called presumptuousness of religion-based greetings such as “merry
Christmas” and “have a blessed day.” Why, I've even heard of
people objecting to “have a nice day,” because it's a cliche or
something. What about “goodbye?” Isn't it derived from “God be
with ye?” Merciful heavens, where does it end? Do these PC police have
a suggestion as to what friendly greeting they prefer using and prefer
that the rest of us use as well?
Warm best wishes. You got a problem with that?
In Response to Educational Television
Anne Heutte, Brookland, firstname.lastname@example.org
Might I suggest, gulp, that you read, TV off, of course, C.S. Lewis's
adult science-fantasy trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra,
and most especially, That Hideous Strength. If you do, you will
never want to turn on that TV stuff again, I promise you.
A Reluctant First Lady
Mandy Katz, email@example.com
A reluctant first lady? No wonder! Dorothy Brizill's analyses of
District politics are usually dead-on, so I can't understand why she
would take time out to pick on Diane Williams. The mayor's wife, by all
accounts a successful and unassuming career woman, made clear from the
start that she and her daughter would avoid the limelight and she would
shun the “First Lady” role if Anthony Williams won the mayoralty.
Then, as Dorothy reports, she kept her promise. So, what's the beef?
After Sharon Pratt Dixon remarried, did anyone gripe that Mr. Kelly
failed to choose a public issue, “traditional or untraditional”
(whatever that means)? As for rumors about an “undisclosed 'health'
problem,” one thing that should not become a tradition is
rumor-mongering about the health of private citizens -- even those
married to public officials.
Resistance to “Reagan National”
David Sobelsohn, firstname.lastname@example.org
In the last issue of themail, Robert Frazier, presumably
tongue-in-cheek, called using the name “Reagan National Airport” an
“insult to DC citizens and the workers at Washington National
Airport.” Yes, but this battle is over, at least until a few years
after the Gipper (remember “g” before “i” is usually soft)
actually croaks (Cape Kennedy's name changed back, didn't it?). I held
out a few years myself; hell, I refused for eight years to utter the
phrase “President Reagan.” But a few months ago I needed to fly out
of that airport. When I told the reservations agent I wanted a flight
out of “National” or “Washington National,” she couldn't find
Dorothy Parker, of course, would've had the perfect reply to Reagan's
Alzheimer's diagnosis (borrowed from her comment when she learned of
Coolidge's death): “How can they tell?”
I second Robert Frazier's sentiments about how we choose to refer to
National Airport, though I worry that there's a conspiracy among the
local media to force the RR moniker down our collective throats, no
matter what. As an example, I noted that every one (and there were quite
a few) of the Post's letters to the editor that dealt with the
post-September 11 closure of National identified the airport as
“Reagan National.” Such unanimity seems highly unlikely, especially
given the ongoing resistance to the name change in many circles. Or
could it have been the hand of the paper's editorial staff enforcing its
own version of proper “style” on letters submitted for publication?
I can't speak about Metro's cost structure, but if the $5 SmarTrip
fee really bothers you, here are a couple of ideas to make you feel
better about it — choose your favorite. 1) Think of it as a one-time
insurance premium. If you lose a $33 Metrocheck or farecard, you're
screwed. Metro is insuring the money you place on your SmarTrip. 2)
Think of it as a one-time account fee. Banks, credit cards, insurance
companies and others charge money to hold accounts and do record-keeping
for you. Instead of getting charged $3 a month, you get a
bargain-basement price of $5 for life! 3) Think of it as an investment
toward the improvement of Metro services — someday we might be able to
use SmarTrip on the bus! That might allow us to pay the same fee
transferring from bus-to-Metro as we pay transferring from Metro-to-bus.
After just a few rides, that $5 would be a distant memory.
For those of you who haven't, open your hearts this season, and give
just $5 to Metro for years of convenient commuting!
The fee hasn't prevented me from getting one. For me, the convenience
is worth the small price but, since Metro is in part a publicly funded
organization, I am still bothered that they chose a policy which would
tend to reduce the number of people adopting the technology, and hence
increasing overall the operational cost. You may call someone a
cheapskate for refusing to pay this fee, but the collective of
cheapskates means fewer people using SmartTrip, and the more people who
use it, the better for everyone. Beyond that, it is fundamentally
annoying that one would have to pay for something that saves the service
provider money. Would you give $5 to Exxon for one of those key chain
things to wave over the pump? Would they dream of trying to charge for
I appreciate the security needed for exit fares. However, this could
have been approached in any number of other ways: 1) Allow users to
automatically recharge their balance to a linked credit card when it
falls below the maximum train fare for example, such as nearly every
other similar program like EZPass. This is far more user-friendly than
the current situation of expecting users to put large quantities of cash
($180, the maximum) up front on their cards to avoid frequent recharges.
2) Label the charge a security deposit and allow it to be refunded if
you turn in your card. 3) You have to show ID and fill out a form when
you get one. I don't see people just tossing their card out because of a
long line. Which of course would be moot if you could recharge
automatically. So how about give the first one away free and charge only
for a replacement, if this is really expected to be a problem?
Are SmarTrip cards personal — i.e., is each registered in an
individual's own name? If so, there's another advantage to SmarTrip
cards: you don't lose everything if you lose a well-charged card. I once
left my regular Metro card, with $16 charged on it, in the pocket of a
garment I brought to the cleaner's. It disappeared at the cleaners,
probably into someone else's pocket (does anyone know a cleaners where
that wouldn't happen?). With a SmarTrip card, could I have called Metro,
canceled the card, and got a replacement? In that event, the $5 is
The SmartTrip cards are indeed very convenient, and I didn't see a
problem with the one-time $5 fee. But I do have a slight problem with
them. I had a regular Metrocheck card which is worth $10.85 which I had
before I got the SmartTrip card, and I could not transfer the amount to
the SmartTrip. So I have to use the paper card all the way down, which
totally defeats the purpose of having the SmartTrip card in the first
place. Is there a magic number amount that the machine will let you
transfer the balance from a regular card to a SmartTrip card? I also
have cards for .10, .15, and .50 which it will not let transfer. But my
brand new card, which I get from my employer (I pay with pretax dollars)
transfers just fine to the SmartTrip card.
Was 2001 a good year for DC? Is there measurable progress towards
becoming a truly outstanding capital city? If not, why not? What do the
latest statistics show? How many domestic urban wars is the mayor trying
to wage at once? Could he benefit from some of the assets available to
President Bush for his single-purpose war against Evildoers? You may not
agree, but our answers to this year-end retrospective can be found in
the January update of the NARPAC web site at http://www.narpac.org.
Don't just sit there. Get positively involved.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
If you want a break from real life murder, mayhem, and bioterrorism,
come hear local mystery authors George Pelecanos and Victoria McKernan
read from their new novels. Pelecanos is the author of ten crime/noir
novels set in and around Washington, DC His newest is Hell to Pay.
McKernan's fourth mystery/thriller The Mosquito War, recently
published (under the name V.A. MacAlister) concerns a bioterrorist
attack on DC using a deadly strain of malaria.
The readings are part of the “Adda” series usually held at Chi
Cha lounge the first Tuesday of each month. This reading, however, will
be held at Staccato bar and lounge, 2006 18th Street, NW (18th and U
Street), Tuesday, January 8, at 7:30 p.m.
P’Shara: Mediation in the Jewish Tradition
Ivor Heyman, email@example.com
Did you know that there is strong precedent in Jewish law for
resolving conflicts through mediation as opposed to litigation? Over
three sessions, Ivor Heyman will teach a workshop on the meaning,
origins, and application of the concept of P’shara (defined as
compromise or settlement) in Jewish law. In this interactive workshop,
participants will (1) examine the Jewish approach to conflict and
peacemaking, (2) learn how Jewish law uses P’shara to generate peace
between conflicting parties, (3) compare and contrast P’shara with
modern concepts of conflict resolution including litigation,
arbitration, and mediation, and (4) obtain support from Jewish texts for
using mediation (a modern form of P’shara) to resolve family, business
and other disputes. Ivor Heyman is a private mediator and facilitator
who works with nonprofit and other organizations in the DC metropolitan
area to resolve internal conflict and undergo systemic change.
Thursdays, January 10, January 17 and January 24, 7-9 p.m., DCJCC,
1529 16th Street, NW. JCC members, $10/session or $20 for the series;
nonmembers, $15/session. For more information, contact Shuly Babitz,
777-3268. Please make advance reservations.
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