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February 3, 2002

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Dear Taxpayers:

It's time for another occasional reminder about the few rules here in themail. Practically anything that relates to living in DC is relevant, but we particularly like to hear about what is going on in each other's neighborhoods, so please share the news about what's going on just around the corner from you. There are a few limits, and they all relate to keeping themail to a reasonable, readable size. An individual message should be only two or at most three brief paragraphs. During the holidays and in deepest summer there are usually fewer postings, so I get lax about individual message length, but when issues start to get long again it's more important to keep it brief. You can submit multiple messages on different issues, but I'll run only two messages from the same person or E-mail address in any single issue. Classifieds are free, but a classified ad for a commercial enterprise can run only once a month. And after awhile I'll get cranky about repetitive postings that keep making the same point. Other than that, speak your mind.

Two readers (Sara Cormeny,, and John Campbell,, helpfully pointed out that an ad for computer services in the last issue of themail actually promoted a company in New York City. They're right; I misread it. When it said “New York Metro area,” I fuzzy-mindedly assumed it meant the business was located near the planned New York Avenue Metro stop. That's how parochial I am, and I didn't check the company's web site to make sure. Sorry, I do try to keep it local; after all, that's what we're about.

Gary Imhoff 


Free Online Tax Service
Valerie Kenyon Gaffney, 

I should have known it was too early and too good to be true! After gathering all the necessary documents I sat down today to file my income taxes using TurboTax. Got to the very end, and discovered that (as of this moment) TurboTax doesn't support DC, or DC doesn't accept TurboTax, or some such aggravation. Okay — not a problem. I'll file my federal return and deal with my DC return later. And then, lo and behold, there's a tiny article buried in Saturday's Washington Post Metro section advising DC residents they can file for free using “Taxpayer Services” on the website. Except, after umpteen efforts to enter my Social Security number and last year's adjusted gross income, the site refuses to recognize me. Like so much else in this city, it's there, but it just doesn't work. And I'm surprised?


DMV Drop Boxes: Good Idea, Poor Execution
Jack McKay, Mount Pleasant, 

As part of their so-called “Drive to Excellence,” the DC Department of Motor Vehicles has put up “DMV drop boxes” all over the District, to save some of us from having to go face the long lines at 301 C Street. These boxes are supposed to “contain envelopes to submit applications and other documents.” I was grateful for this, as I headed for the nearby Reeves Center to turn in the tags of my dead Honda. Well, there's a drop box, all right, but there are no envelopes, so it was useless. This was sufficiently annoying that I called DC and eventually got to someone who said that the box would be serviced promptly. A week later I returned to the Reeves Center: but again, no envelopes.

Abandoning that approach, I went downtown, only to find enormous lines in the DMV office. Aha, but there's a drop box there, so in theory I could skip the lines and leave my tags in the box. Unfortunately, this drop box is also without envelopes. But I had passed another drop box as I came in the Indiana Avenue entrance. And this one has, miraculously, envelopes! But it's also got a problem: the doors of the drop box had been left unlatched, so the contents of the box were falling out the back. Anybody could take a bunch of turned-in tags and walk out the door with them. There was no assurance that tags or other documents left there would have made it to the DMV.

So I took an envelope from the unlatched drop box, and returned to the DMV office to drop my tags into the envelope-less drop box there. DMV drop boxes: a good idea, to be sure; but really poor execution.


Scatter Shots
Mark Eckenwiler, 

A data point in the student immunization imbroglio: My nine-year-old's DCPS school spent all fall insisting that he was out of compliance with the vaccination requirements, despite the fact (known to them) that he has had every required shot. The “problem” was that his first MMR shot was administered (by a licensed pediatrician, but what could he know?) a few days before his first birthday. Notwithstanding the fact that he also got his booster shot on time, DCPS insisted that his one-year shot be readministered. (Perhaps with the aid of a time machine to be financed by the DC revenue surplus?)

Ours was not the only family beset by such inanity. For the moment, letters from pediatricians (saying, in effect, “Don't be stupid”) have staved off the zealots, and the Young Master's classroom education proceeds apace.


IG Investigation Blows Smoke
Dorothy Brizill, 

On Tuesday, the Council will vote on a resolution of no confidence in DC's Inspector General Charles Maddox that calls for him to resign his position ( The resolution follows a six-hour oversight hearing by the Committee on Government Operations on January 17 that reviewed Maddox's qualifications, term of office, and residence. At the hearing, Council Chairman Cropp and Committee Chair Orange put Milou Carolan, director of the DC Office of Personnel, on notice that they expected her office to investigate Maddox's residency and report back to the Council.

On the eve of the Council vote, the Office of Personnel has engaged a firm “to investigate the allegation regarding the residency of Charles Maddox.” There is only one problem. The firm they engaged, Brightline Compliance, isn't an investigative firm and doesn't have skills and competence in investigations. According to its own web site (, the firm “provides custom anti-discrimination training” to firms and helps employers “comply with anti-discrimination laws and minimize their vulnerability to lawsuits.” On Friday, Sharon Mayhew, Personnel's General Counsel, expressed confidence in Brightline's abilities, but refused to explain its selection or how it was qualified. She did say that Brightline had expertise in anti-discrimination compliance “investigations,” and said that the investigation of Maddox's residency was “a compliance issue.” If the Office of Personnel and the Mayor's Office were serious about determining whether Maddox really fulfills his job requirement of living in the District of Columbia, they could have asked the MPD to investigate, or they could have hired one of the more than 150 DC area private investigation firms listed in the yellow pages. They hired an anti-discrimination training firm instead, raising doubts about their commitment to doing a serious investigation.


Landmark Designation for the Old Firehouses
Sally Berk, 

A DC firefighter recently complained that a leaky old toilet couldn't be discarded if his firehouse were landmarked! Sadly, preservationists haven’t succeeded at explaining the effect of landmark designation. As the author of the nineteen firehouse landmark nominations submitted to the DC Historic Preservation Division late last year, and the recipient of several unpleasant calls in the past month, I'd like to take a crack at explaining it. I hope to allay the fears of those who believe that landmark designation will impede the fire department's ability to fulfill its mission. This simply isn't so. No one would want to jeopardize the safety of the city’s residents.

The city's preservation ordinance, rather than prohibiting renovation of historic buildings, actually encourages it. Only through renovation can historic buildings survive. No one wants to see our buildings, or any part of our city, frozen in time. Landmark designation would not prevent the fire department from upgrading or adding onto the old firehouses. In fact, four of DCFD's firehouses have been landmarks for years, which has not prevented their renovation, although lack of funds may have. What landmark designation does do is make it extremely difficult — but not impossible — to completely demolish (raze) a building. Which means that if the fire department were to surplus an old firehouse, the next owner would find impediments to complete demolition. The firehouse would, instead, have to be adapted to a new use as has been done successfully in our city and many others.

Landmark designation would require the fire department to submit plans for exterior alterations and additions to the DC Historic Preservation Division. The plans would be reviewed for compatibility of design. And compatibility is interpreted liberally. An addition would not have to replicate the old firehouse nor even be constructed of the same materials. It would, however, have to be compatible in scale. The fire department would be provided with free technical assistance by the city’s historic preservation division. Maintenance, repair, and replacement-in-kind, those undertakings which don’t require building permits, wouldn’t require preservation review. Fortunately, there are many firefighters who do understand the effect of landmark designation. The Capitol Fire Museum, sponsor of the nineteen nominations, has hundreds of members, mostly active and retired DC firefighters, who support the firehouse designations. Not one has expressed concern that landmarking would put the citizens of Washington at risk.

There are tens of thousands of landmark buildings in our city on Capitol Hill, in Georgetown, Dupont Circle, LeDroit Park, Logan Circle, Mt. Pleasant, etc. They are lived in, renovated, and added onto constantly. They hold their values and provide livable, workable environments. It's no different for the firehouses. A fine example of a landmarked firehouse, one that is pristine and functioning, is at the old Navy Yard. Everyone should go and see it.


E. James Lieberman, 

A physician (psychiatrist) who was part of the Blue Cross/Blue Shield provider network, I opted out, along with many others, because the extra work was going up while their approved fees (at least for psychiatry) were going down. On occasion I have to correspond with CareFirst, and am frustrated by the fact that their letters of request for information as well as their explanation of benefit statements have no return address. It seems a strange omission, but I think it must be deliberate. Anyone have knowledge or thoughts about it? It may be relevant to the general discussion of letting CareFirst go private. I would not give it high marks from the consumer or provider side, in general.


Easier-to-Read Taxicab Map
Bob Andrew, 

Thanks to the Washington Post graphics artists, there is now a easy-to-read, oriented north-south, color map that was published in the Thursday January 31 “District Extra” section. Unfortunately the online version of the story does not yet show the map — see

How about DC Taxi Commission getting permission from the Washington Post to use that artwork, and post it on their web site,, to accompany the legal text descriptions? That would be a helpful thing that will cost the Washington Post nothing, but garner them goodwill.

As a next step, the DC Taxi Commission could then use the same artwork to reprint the laminated map and zone pricing on the back of each taxi driver's seat, but give them TWO of them, one behind the driver and one behind the passenger side. That will improve the odds of being able to read it when seated.


Why No Contest?
Dawn Dickerson, 

I'll tell you why no one is running for office in DC. Most of the qualified black folks live in Maryland and there's not enough white folks (yet) living in Wards/neighborhoods that would support a white candidate.


Justice and Fairness in ANC Redistricting
Alexander M. Padro, 

Brian Hiller, in his 01/30/02 posting to themail, questions the fairness of having a largely unpopulated part of Southwest remain under the administrative control of Ward 2 Advisory Neighborhood Commissions. As a member of the Ward 2 ANC Redistricting Task Force and the Shaw/ANC 2C Redistricting Subcommittee, and as a sitting ANC 2C commissioner, I was involved in the complicated and delicate negotiations necessary in order to ensure the viability of ANC 2C following the ward redistricting process that tore out 48% of our population and transferred it to Wards 1 and 6 (mostly 6). We lost all of Northwest One and parts of Chinatown and Downtown. We didn't have the option to move our entire population to another ward intact, as Southwest did. (The only portion of the waterfront business district that will be under ANC 2F's control is the marina, not the Water Street restaurant and cruise ship corridor. The commercial strip there, including the yacht club and fish market, is completely in Ward 6.) ANC 2C was left bloodied, with scars that will take a very long time to heal.

Working with the Logan Circle/ANC 2F Subcommittee, the Shaw/ANC 2C Subcommittee was able to identify population that could be transferred from ANC 2F to ANC 2C in order to allow ANC 2C to have sufficient population for four fully populated and funded single member districts. We previously had six commissioners, but four was the best we could do without more drastic changes in the 2C/2F boundary. This was not a painless process, and as part of the negotiations, certain blocks of downtown were transferred from 2C to 2F. Both commissions agreed to share the portions of Ward 2 directly to the south, which Mr. Mendelson proposes giving to ANC 6D. One of the principles of the Ward 2 ANC Redistricting Task Force was that there would be no cross-ward ANCs. This principle was established by Councilmember Evans and accepted by the full task force. The boundary between Ward 2 and Ward 6 in Southwest was finalized by Councilmembers Evans and Ambrose when they agreed to an adjustment that would allow the handful of Dominican friars, the only significant group of Southwest residents living north of the Eisenhower Parkway, to be represented by the new ANC 6D. Ambrose understood that the rest of portion of Southwest north of I-395 was going to be under the jurisdiction of Ward 2 ANCs, and she accepted this on behalf of her current and future constituents.

Now a handful of Southwesters, unhappy with how ward redistricting treated them, seek a second bite at the apple, trying to get back what they lost in the ward redistricting process. If this is acceptable, ANC 2C and every other commission that lost areas they treasure through the debacle that was the 2001 redistricting process should try to get control over anything and everything they can at the last moment through political machinations. Why not? Because to do so would cause further chaos and would pervert the spirit and principles of the redistricting process and the compromises and agreements made and accepted to date. Indeed, Mr. Mendelson's amendment is nothing less than a perversion of the task he was charged with as chair of the Subcommittee on Labor, Voting Rights and Redistricting. When Mr. Mendelson contacted me to explain his reasons for having proposed the amendment, I reminded him of his words from the dais at a hearing on redistricting in November 2001. When I expressed my concern at the hearing that the Ward 6 ANC that would in January of 2003 incorporate the Wax Museum development site would have no voice in determining the fate of that major development until all the key decisions had already been made, Mendelson advised me that he was not concerned, as any adjacent ANC had the ability to have input into matters that affect it, even if they do not have jurisdiction. When I reminded him of this, and suggested that ANC 6D would have the same privileges that he stated would be ANC 6C's, Mendelson's response was, “It's not the same at all.” This double standard, that what's good for the goose isn't good for the gander, what's good enough to impose on majority African American neighborhoods and commissions isn't good enough for less melanin-rich neighborhoods and ANCs, I must regard as nothing short of hypocrisy and racism. Mr. Mendelson should be ashamed. Where is his sense of fairness?


Links to Essay on Bill 14-2
Jim McLeod, 

Hours after sending my message re the above-referenced subject, I found a home on the web for my Georgetown Current essay on the subject "Viewpoint: Civil liberties at stake with law on juries, January 23, 2002." Here are the links: in PDF format,; in HTML format,


Lengthy DC Democracy Discussions
Malcolm L Wiseman Jr., 

A reminder to all: the list server at Stand Up for Democracy never tires of your DC democracy discussions, no matter how long and drawn out they may be. We'll talk democracy 'til it or the cows come home. To subscribe or unsubscribe send a blank E-mail message to the appropriate address: or You're in control. Now, that's something novel, isn't it?


Overlooked in themail
Len Sullivan, 

A potentially important bill was finally passed by the DC Council in January, but none of themail's critical readers picked up on it. We think the DC Housing Act can be an important contribution to blight-removal in the city, but isn't there a potential downside? What's the status of low income housing these days nationwide, and who's poaching on whom? Have you ever compared the housing stock in different sectors of this Metro area? Did you notice what the Brookings §egghead poll” thinks the federal government should do about urban problems over the next 50 years? And what households are paying most of the freight in local taxes? You may not agree, but our answers to these basic quality of life issues can be found in the February update of the NARPAC web site at Don't just sit there. Get positively involved.



Author Event: Luis Rodriguez
Bridget Warren, 

Hearts and Hands deals with many of the difficult issues addressed in Luis Rodriguez's memoir of gang life, Always Running, but with a focus on healing through community building. Empowered by his own experiences as a peacemaker with gangs in Los Angeles and Chicago, Rodriguez offers us a unique book, one that speaks of change and progress not from a legislative floor or an ivory tower, but from the trenches, where the laws of the gang rule the community. He makes concrete suggestions on how we can create nonviolent opportunities for youth today and redirect kids into productive and satisfying lives. And he warns that we sacrifice community values for material gain by incarcerating or marginalizing people on the edge of society. Through anecdote and interview, Rodriguez makes a powerful argument for building and supporting grassroots level, hands-on community life. Luis's interest in dissolving gang influence on black and Latino kids is personal as well as societal; his son is currently serving a prison sentence for gang-related activity. Wednesday, February 6, 7:00 p.m., Vertigo Books, 7346 Baltimore Avenue, College Park Shopping Center, College Park, MD 20740, 301-779-9300. All are welcome to attend our readings, but if you wish to have a book signed it must be purchased at Vertigo Books, rather than at a competitor.



Internet Training (Basic and Advanced Usage/Search) and Web Development
Harold Goldstein, 

We offer customized training across the Washington DC area on location. We can do person-to-person work on your site or at our site, train groups of users at your site and with personalized training materials. We train from the perspective of the end user and from the perspective of the budding website creator. We also offer web design and development at prices that are difficult to beat. Our clients include other list participants.



For Rent: Fully Furnished Apartment; Cat Allowed; $1700/mo.
Lynne Mersfelder, 

1) Charming fully furnished 1 bedroom apartment available in Adams Morgan (near Calvert Street and Adams Mill Road). Available immediately, prefer one year lease, would consider shorter; cat allowed; no smoking please. Pet-friendly 1910 redone Deco period building, very well maintained, GREAT location, close to restaurants, 10 minutes to Metro; balcony off bedroom, sunny exposure, track and mood lighting, ceiling fan, washer/dryer in unit, cable TV/VCR, great customized closet space, bike, and other storage.

The rent includes: local phone, voicemail, electricity, cable TV, VCR, furnishings, etc. The unit has a small balcony, A/C, carpet, washer/dryer, basement storage area, 2 custom closets (6' and 10'), mood lighting throughout, and mounted speakers. More importantly, the building allows small pets. Centrally located, near Woodley Park/Zoo/Adams Morgan metro, easy access to Rock Creek Park, located across from a neighborhood park. For more scoop please contact Lynne Mersfelder-Lewis or Don Lewis at 362-9494, or Lynne at work at 301-713-3078 x215, or cell 257-1730, or via E-mail at


Volunteers Needed to Clean and Paint Community Center
Arthur Jackson, 

As the Ward 8 Democratic State Committeeman, I'm appealing to fellow residents of DC to join the Fighting 54th Public Service Organization every Saturday in Black History Month, and help us paint, clean and furnish, a community center at 8th Street and Alabama Avenue, SE, from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Donations of paint, computer desks, computers, writing tablets, and other items are needed. Contact The Fighting 54th Public Service Organization at 610-3094.



Thank You to the Hundreds of DC Residents
George Barry, 

Thank you to the hundreds of DC residents offering to volunteer to help draft David Catania for Mayor. We have been overwhelmed. Please be patient, and a volunteer coordinator will contact you. Remember, call Councilman Catania and tell him DC needs a real leader. We need Catania as Mayor.


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