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January 16, 2002

Climb That Mountain, Plant That Flag

Dear Mountaineers:

Board of Education president and humorist Peggy Cooper Cafritz has written an hilarious must-read parody of what substitutes for budget planning in the DC government, published both in the January 14 issue of the Washington Times ( and the January 9 issue of the Northwest Current. Cafritz first starts with the premise that the Board of Education asked the DCPS administration to produce a budget “based on what it really takes to educate the whole child in the DCPS,” and the administration came up with an annual budget of $979 million, an $338 million increase over this year's record budget. Cafritz never says what this additional money would be spent on, or how spending it would improve DC public schools; instead, she parrots the generations-old DC government maxim that the sad state of government services is solely the result of underfunding, and has nothing to do with miserable mismanagement and continuing lack of accountability. And then she cheerleads: “The $338-million mountain may seem almost impossible to climb, but with your active support and participation, we will get there one day. If we hide in safe, carpeted cocoons and accept whatever budget marks we are given, our children will continue to receive second-rate educations for many years to come. But we can climb that mountain together and hoist the flag of DCPS on top of that mountain, knowing that we have, at last, done right by our children.” Don't miss this delicious satire.

Gary Imhoff 


Selling Bridges, and Anything Else You’ll Buy
Jonetta Rose Barras, 

No one should be satisfied with the paltry excuse provided by the District's Inspector General's paltry letter earlier this week in response to growing concerns about the delay in both his investigation and the subsequent report. Mr. Maddox suggests that the investigation was complex, but we're not talking about explaining how Enron went belly up or identifying the members of Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network. What we have in the office of the city's IG is a failure to perform, and a glaring instance of incompetence. You have to wonder why the IG interviewed Mayor Anthony Williams only a month ago — ten months after his investigation began in February, 2001. And why is he still interviewing individuals directly or tangentially involved in the fundraising fiasco of 2001, especially when he had first indicated to DC Council members that he intended to conclude his investigation by summer's end and issue his report soon after? Mr. Maddox himself must have been convinced that his investigation was coming to a close, because he initially asked Cecily Collier-Montgomery, executive director of the Office of Campaign Finance, to delay the release of her report by ninety days after it was due and finished. The OCF, which also launched its investigation in February 2001, tried to oblige. But to no avail; when the three-month extension was over, the IG still wasn’t ready.

We could all perhaps understand this failure to produce if Mr. Maddox suffered a staffing shortage or a tight budget. But he has staff of 105 and a budget of $11.2 million. Former IG Angela Avant should have been so lucky. Selected by then-Mayor Marion Barry and the control board as the first newly configured and greatly empowered OIG, Avant was given the boot after less than a year. No one had time to wait for her to staff up or establish important administrative systems. Expectations were high, although she had one fifth of the Mr. Maddox's staff and far less money.

When the IG is called upon to perform his primary and critical function of investigating fraud and or abuse in the government, and he fails to rise to the occasion, then it seems there is grounds for his immediate dismissal or at least some disciplinary action by his superiors -- the council and the mayor. If we cannot condone the apparent ethical violations that occurred under the mayor’s watch, then certainly there should be equal, and stinging, criticism of the IG.

The council’s Committee on Government Operations, chaired by Ward 5’s Vincent Orange, is expected to hold a hearing on the OIG tomorrow (Thursday). Sources say that the IG will be hammered about his place of residency, which he claims is both the District and Maryland. He also will be asked his interpretation of when his tenure ends. He contends it's 2005. But Dorothy Brizill of was the first in the local press corps to track down and write about the specifics of Maddox's appointment, here in themail. The city’s power-hungry IG was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Barrett Prettyman, who was hired to filled the unexpired term of Avant. Which all means Maddox’s tenure ends this month. But the most rigorous questioning from the Council should surround the office’s performance with respect to the fundraising investigation. If the Council does its usual dance with faltering bureaucrats, however, let this commentary stand as the first blow against continuing incompetence, and sorry excuses used far too often by government officials to mask their failure to perform.


Taxis: Zones v. Meters
Joan Eisenstodt, 

Maybe those writing in support of meters don't live on the Hill! I always know what my fare will be, no matter where I'm going, in the City or out. It's easy to obtain a zone map and know that you won't be bilked. Even at the airports, dispatchers hand passengers a map of what the fares should be in a DC cab.

I've been stuck in traffic for up to 35 minutes for “Congress crossings” during a vote. With so many street closings on the Hill and elsewhere, I've had drivers who went very “interesting” routes — but it still cost the same. In a metered cab, it would not. Why is there a presumption that visitors won't be taken advantage of with meters v. zones? Sheesh . . . it's easy for a driver to say they have to go “this” way and increase the fare substantially. I'm a non-driver and depend on my feet, the Metro, and more so, cabs to get around. Yesterdays' op ed piece from a taxi driver [“Meters Won't Make the Fares Any Fairer,”] made infinite sense to me. No one has yet to present an argument that meters are better, except for a very few who travel only in small circles!


Ya Gotta Be Impressed
Ed T. Barron, 

Only five days after his inauguration as the new Mayor of New York City, Bloomberg has put in place a very talented cabinet and staff. Bloomberg already had named a new Police Commissioner before his inauguration and today named a deputy Police Commissioner charged with training New York City Fire Department and Police Department personnel in anti terrorism techniques and procedures.

This latest appointment will have to be impressive to the Olympic Games Selection Committee as NY City continues its efforts to land the 2012 Summer games. I'm not sure why anybody would be crazy enough to want to be Mayor of New York City and follow the tough act of Guiliani. Bloomberg seems up to the job, however. Maybe we can entice Rudy G. to come to Washington and establish residence. Hey, if it's good enough for Hillary, in the opposite direction, maybe it's just possible to lure Guiliani to DC He could run this city with one hand tied behind his back.


More on Mail Issues
Ted Gest, 

I had one recent episode similar to Joan Eisenstodt's — receiving a letter on January 7 that had been postmarked in Missouri on October 22. I've heard of similar stories, but not enough to declare a crisis. I'd like to hear an account from the Postal Service about what happened to the millions of pieces of mail that were shipped for decontamination.


Snail Mail and Short Memories
Mark Richards, Dupont East, 

My snail mail has slowed since the anthrax problem. I continue to receive Christmas cards and invitations to events that took place in December -- some mail was sent locally. Today I received a Christmas card from Connecticut, mailed December 4, and a package from California, mailed mid-September. The package looked like it went through a wringer. A special paper inside the Christmas card was very brittle — apparently from the irradiation process.

Regarding National Airport, I have also found that if I say I’m flying into National Airport, people don’t know what I’m talking about. Thanks to turnover in the airline industry, the name Ronald Reagan National Airport has become the recognized name.


Nobody Wins (Re DCA)
Paul Penniman, 

Nobody wins when we memorialize a man who thought trees cause pollution.


Change the Name
Ed T. Barron, 

Though I have never been considered very politically correct, being a throwback to a former era, I strongly object to the name of the local professional football team, the Washington Redskins. This name is more than irritating, it is offensive and insensitive. It is timely to change the name of this team right now. The team should be called the Maryland Redskins.


Mirian Saez
Bob Summersgill, 

Dorothy Brizill overestimates the political significance and usefulness of nominating Mirian Saez for School Board. Brizill also underestimates Ms. Saez’s qualifications. Although her background isn’t in education, she has previously served on a school board in another jurisdiction and had a strong asset management background echoing the skills of Bob Peck, who she would replace. In terms of politics, Mayor Williams won’t garner a single extra vote for reelection due to this appointment. Saez is the President of the Gertrude Stein Democratic Club, “the city's largest and most powerful gay and lesbian Democratic party organization.” However, that description doesn’t actually compare them to anything. They are the only gay democratic club in DC. And although size does matter, it probably isn’t the thing that Stein should be boasting. They only have around 100 members. Nonetheless, they are influential in the Mayor’s office and in the DC Democratic party.

There is also no chance that Mayor Williams would not receive their endorsement. Gertrude Stein is very supportive of the Mayor, as former Stein president Kurt Vorndran has made clear through his postings to themail. The only other candidate for mayor that has been mentioned is Councilmember Chavous. But the Stein Club did not even endorse Chavous in his uncontested election in 2000. Nor is a gay appointment a particular coup for the gay community. While Saez would be the first openly gay member of the school board, there are two openly gay members of the DC Council and countless gay people on boards and commissions and throughout the DC government at all levels. This is not a new phenomenon, but dates back to Mayor Washington in the mid 1970s. Another appointment is nice, but not a critical factor in gaining votes from the gay community. Saez may have made it to the top of the nominations list in part because she is Hispanic, but then so is Paul Ruiz; so that seems unlikely to be a factor in her selection over him. Brizill did not make a strong argument for Saez being chosen because she is a woman. In fact, I doubt that this mattered to anyone at all. Women are not particularly organized as a voting block in DC, nor is there a particular sense that woman face a significant disadvantage in DC politics. A quick look at the DC Council and School Board shows that DC voters are quite comfortable electing women and women have numerous high positions in the Williams administration.


Washington: The Marketing Concept
Lois Kirkpatrick, 

Kevin Palmer wrist-whacked the Washington Convention & Visitors Bureau for promoting businesses in the Virginia and Maryland suburbs. I agree that that DC has a wide range of fabulous establishments and cultural activities the WCTC should promote. However, one thing they teach you in marketing school is that your existing customers are your best promotional target. My guess is that the majority of visitors to upscale DC eateries, clubs, stores, museums, and monuments come from outside the DC city limits. So why not market to those people?


Regarding DC Marketing: Come on, Mr. Palmer!
Erica Nash, 

You ask why the Convention Center mentioned neighboring state's restaurants? That is good business for DC and sound PR practice. Tell folks what they can do in our area, give them, diversity, show them how much else they can do if they come to DC, and they will come.


Re: DC Self-Government: Two Aspects by David Sobelsohn
George LaRoche, 

I gather that Mr. Sobelsohn's point would be that there's no local self-government without representation in Congress. The apparent rationale for this conclusion seems to be that, if DC had local self-government without representation, it could legislate all it wanted to, but Congress — lacking a protesting vote in Congress from DC — would still be able to trump all local legislation. Clearly, for this rationale to apply and his conclusion to follow, there would have been no local self-government in the first place, so this argument is circular.

Mr. Sobelsohn is right, however, to point out that representation in Congress is important in its own right. At the same time, however, this is true only if and when the representatives of the people of DC enter Congress on the same terms and grounds as all other representatives. It's one thing to participate in making the laws for all the country, which is the right of all citizens of the United States; it's another to participate in a colonial system through ersatz and legislatively alterable “representation” categorically inferior to that enjoyed by all other citizens of the United States. In the end, Mr. Sobelsohn's points about the limits of self-government and the importance of representation seem to be offered not to advance a vision of self-government, but to support a political program which is usually referred to as “incrementalism.” They buttress his more basic argument that “representation in Congress could help us get local self-government. . . .” Thus, the benefits of representation in Congress to which Mr. Sobelsohn alludes also arise from his assumption that the District necessarily must remain a colony under Congress's thumb.

But first, as the three-judge district court said almost two years ago, representation in Congress is accorded to the citizens of the various States (almost every professor of constitutional law I've spoke to who's not already a partisan in this battle (and every judge but one) agrees with this ruling). So long as DC is not a state or part of a state, there is no constitutional basis for “representation.” Second, while we might work toward an amendment, why should we? Why should the District remain a colony? No one has ever answered this question. In the lifetime of many of the readers of this newsletter, Congress has had precisely the same power over millions of other citizens of the United States, with all the same results. Unlike the population of DC, most of those people were employed by the federal government (or were spouses or children of people employed by the federal government) and many held “top secret” positions, making them far more important to the federal government's interests than most of the residents of the District. Congress cut them free and made them citizens of States, sometimes of States who are fiercely resistant to federal interests. Before we settle for incrementalism, we should answer the question of why Congress needs to keep this colony, when it has shown itself of so many others held under precisely the same constitutional powers.



Gay and Lesbian Unit
Larry Ray, 

Come learn about the Gay and Lesbian Unit (GLLU) of the Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, DC. Wednesday, January 23, 7-8 p.m., Watha T. Daniels./Shaw Branch library, 1701 8th Street, NW (Rhode Island and R Streets, NW, across from R Street Exit, Howard/Shaw Metro-Green line). Featuring Sgt. Brett Parsons and Officer Kelly McMurtrie. Ever wondered if any of the local men and women in blue prefers to protect and serve in lavender? The answer is an unabashed yes for the staff of the Metropolitan Police Department's Gay and Lesbian Liaison Unit (GLLU). Come meet two openly gay and lesbian members of the department, Sergeant Brett A. Parson and Officer Kelly McMurtrie. Since its inception in June 2000, the GLLU has dedicated itself to serving the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender (GLBT) communities in the Washington Metropolitan area and the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).

Also learn about the Community Mediation Center. Larry Ray, former Executive Director of the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) will describe how the Community Mediation Center can assist you in resolving business, neighborhood and landlord/tenant disputes. Moderator: Brad Peterson, coordinator: Thomas Jordan. Sponsored by Ward Two Council Member Jack Evans; The Community Mediation Center; Cooper Park Neighborhood Association; and Alexander M. Padro, Commissioner ANC2C01. For further information, contact Larry Ray, 483-0241,



Lodging/Temporary Housing
Colleen Dailey, 

Looking for comfortable, affordable lodging for out of town guests? A good friend of mine just purchased a charming bed and breakfast in Adams Morgan. Adam's Inn, located at 1744 Lanier Place, NW (745-3600), is currently offering the lowest winter rates in DC, starting at $45/night for a room with shared bath, or $65/night for a room with private bath. The staff is friendly, the accommodations are cozy, and the location is great -- right around the corner from the 18th Street shops, and a short walk to the Metro, National Zoo, Dupont Circle, etc. Think about Adam's Inn the next time friends, family, or colleagues need lodging in DC. For extended stays, Adam's Inn also offers unbeatable weekly and monthly rates.



Movie Tickets
Laurie England, 

Two (2) tickets for any movie theater in the U.S., Monday-Thursday, $14 or best offer (value $10.50/each); two (2) for any United Artist theater anytime, $14 or best offer. E-mail:



Bugs and Books
Peg Blechman, 

The Bancroft Elementary School Insect Garden (nee the Butterfly Garden) needs books on bugs and their fellow garden invertebrates, worms, and spiders. With teacher training provided by the Insect Zoo at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, Bancroft is developing a science curriculum based on bugs, applying to the National Wildlife Federation for funds and certification as a "Schoolyard Habitat," and applying to GROW for a mini-grant. If you have children's books on insects, worms, and/or spiders, particularly picture books, story books, and field guides, that you could donate to the school library, please E-mail me at or at or drop them off on the porch at 3138 19th Street, NW.



Zagat’s Guide
Fred Bohrer, 

Contrary to what Michael Karlan put in the last issue, you don't need the DC Society of Young Professionals to weigh on your eligibility to get a Zagat Restaurant guide. Just ask Zagat, at I'm sure young professionals appreciate not having misleading statements made in their name.



Multi-Month Car Rental Sought
Jon Katz, 

I need to rent a car for about six months. Does anybody know of a local car rental service that will provide a less expensive rental fee under these circumstances than the Hertz/Avis weekly rate?


Dave Nuttycombe, 

From's LOOSE LIPS column, appearing this Thursday:
DRAFT DODGING: The District's new way of electing a mayor goes roughly like this: Fixate on a hopeful who has nothing in common with the incumbent. Form a core group of supporters from disparate wards to make phone calls and solicit support. Raise a little money.
“Then you go to the prospective candidate and see if he thinks that you're out of your mind,” explains Marilyn Groves, a Dupont Circle civic activist and supporter of a movement to draft Ward 4 Councilmember Adrian Fenty to run for mayor.
In recent weeks, a cabal of DC residents, primarily from Ward 2 and Ward 4, has been forming an “ad hoc citizens committee” to draft the 31-year-old freshman councilmember to run for the city's highest elected office. It's not inconceivable.
Read the entire Loose Lips column here: 

From's CITY LIGHTS page, here are a few early warnings for upcoming events:
FRIDAY: Ken Smith discusses his book Junk English at 7 p.m. at Politics and Prose, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free.
THURSDAY: The Mexican Cultural Institute hosts an evening with chef Patricia Quintana, whose menu features a Mayan Peninsula theme. The cooking begins at 7 p.m. at the Mexican Cultural Institute, 2829 16th St. NW. $60.
More details and more critics' picks are available online at 


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