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February 27, 2002

Old Movies and Old Jokes

Dear Cliché Lovers:

That classic moment in Casablanca has become a cliché because it presents political hypocrisy so accurately and truly. Claude Rains closes Rick's Cafe because, he says, “I'm shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here.” The casino manager immediately come up to Rains and hands him a stack of money, saying, “Your winnings, sir,” to which Rains replies, “Oh, thank you very much.” On Sunday and Monday, the Washington Post published two articles about this town's Community Development Corporations. The articles didn't expose anything that people who live in the neighborhoods blighted by these CDCs haven't known for decades — the corruption of the CDCs has been a secret only in the sense that Humphrey Bogart's back room casino in Rick's was a secret. But the Post's articles performed a service — the newspaper's long delayed public acknowledgment of the CDC disgrace has made it impossible for politicians to pretend ignorance any longer.

The pretense of ignorance has now been replaced with the public display of hypocrisy, as Mayor Williams and Ward One Councilmember Graham call for reform. Williams and Graham both came into office fully aware of the corruption and ineffectiveness of CDCs, and they worked to perpetuate that corruption. They both fought to maintain the CDCs' stranglehold on neighborhood development projects, to steer city land and money to CDCs, to enrich CDCs at the expense of neighborhoods like Columbia Heights, Shaw, the H Street Corridor, and Anacostia. No Mayor and no Councilmember has ever fought the old-boy network of CDCs and their bureaucratic allies, but Mayor Williams and Councilmember Graham were particularly slavish allies of the worst of the CDCs, and they fought hard against the neighborhood groups and residents who dared to criticize them.

That's where the old joke comes in. An accused man is explaining to a judge why he shouldn't be held responsible for burning down a hotel by smoking in bed. “I didn't start the fire, Judge,” he says, “the bed was already aflame when I climbed in it.” This is one case where the alibi is really true. Williams and Graham didn't start the CDCs' corruption; they found the corruption already blazing and climbed in bed with it. Rick's back room might remain quiet for a week or two, but it will be back in business as soon as the public's attention moves on to the next scandal. Bet on it.

Gary Imhoff 


Hooray for the Washington Post
Ed T. Barron, 

And boo for the Williams' administration. The Post articles this week on the mismanagement of development monies from DC and the Feds to refurbish rundown properties in the District, are just another example of the lack of reform promised by Mayor Williams in the DC government. Mayor Williams promised, in his pre-election days that he would help reform the DC government and to make it better managed. Where's the beef? Where's the promised reform and better management?

So far we have the Mayor sitting on his buns while revelation after revelation come from exposes by the Post and other well meaning agencies/interests. We have a real reactive DC Mayor instead of the proactive one that was promised and elected some four years ago. Get off your buns Mr. Mayor, you've got nothing to lose except the shine on your trousers.


Short Takes
Dorothy Brizill, 

Mayor Williams has chosen Charles N. Duncan to serve as the campaign manager for his reelection bid. Duncan is currently an advisor at Global USA, Inc., a DC-based government relations, lobbying, and campaign firm. He previously served as Associate Director of Presidential Personnel in the Clinton White House and as Executive Assistant to Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy. His political bio is available online at

The DC Office of Boards and Commissions has signed a contract with US Investigations Services, Inc., to do background investigations of nominees to key boards and commissions. The administration's decision to vet its nominees comes after several embarrassing lapses in its knowledge about its nominees over the past three years (for example, Robert Newman, Christopher Lynn, Sam Kaiser, Ronnie Few, Charles Maddox). Former senior MPD official Max Kruppo will direct US Investigations Services' work for Boards and Commissions.

For those interested in keeping track of former Williams administration officials who are still in the kitchen cabinet: Max Brown has established a firm, Group 360, LLC, to lobby the District government. In his January 2002 filing at the Office of Campaign Finance, Brown indicates that his lobbying clients include Dynamic Concepts, ACS, Colonial Parking, and CityNet. Colonial Parking is an old hand at influence peddling in DC, but ACS is even more interesting. ACS stands for Affiliated Computer Services, the new name for Lockheed Martin IMS's spun-off subsidiary, which has the contracts for the District's red light and speed camera.


DC General Hospital Land Listed on Historical Property Registers
Carolyn Curtis, 

As the discussions regarding the use of the land on which DC General Hospital sits continues, it is important to note that DC General Hospital is listed as a national historical medical site by the National Library of Medicine. It is also listed on the National Historical Places register of the National Park Service.


Jack Evans Delivers — for Deep Pockets
Nick Keenan, Shaw, 

The members of the DC Council are extremely successful at getting themselves reelected, which means they must be delivering for the people who put them in office. So the question isn't whether councilmembers provide service to their constituents — it's who the constituents are that they provide service to.

I'm sad to report that Jack Evans in my representative on the Council. While councilmembers like Fenty, Graham and Ambrose engage in retail politics, where they represent individuals in their ward, Jack has more of a wholesale approach. He champions the cause of big organizations — businesses, non-profits, universities. They don't have to be in his ward, or even in this city. They only requirement is that they provide cash, and lots of it. In the past four years Jack has raised more money than any politician in the city. You can see that cash at work by looking at his legislative record ( Every year Jack introduces dozens of pieces of special-interest legislation -- tax breaks, tax deferrals, alley closings, permit exemptions, regulatory “clarifications,” and outright giveaways in the form of tax-increment financing. Almost all of his output is created under the guise of either temporary or emergency legislation, which allows him to bypass the normal legislative process, and almost all of it benefits the deep pockets who fund his elections. He is also a reliable source for ceremonial resolutions.

It is true that if you call or write Jack's office, you will get a sympathetic phone call in return. What you won't get is action. Mundane issues like police responsiveness, trash collection, parking, nuisance properties, the schools, or liquor regulation appear to interest Jack not in the least. In his twelve years on the council, Jack has authored hundreds of pieces of legislation, but not one with the intent of improving the quality of life of the residents of Ward 2.


Jack Evans’s Responsiveness
David Sobelsohn, 

In the last issue of themail, Renee Schwager wrote a long paean to Jack Evans's constituent services. Since my experience is so completely different from Renee's — I rarely get a reply E-mail or a returned telephone call — I'm wondering if Renee can share her secret with us. Is there some particular individual currently in Evans's office we should contact next time we have a constituent problem? And what is that individual's telephone number and E-mail address? The next time my local police are unresponsive it would be nice if my own councilmember would take the problem seriously enough at least to acknowledge an E-mail message. It's odd that I got a reply from Jim Graham and not from Jack Evans to a complaint about something that happened in Ward Two to one of Jack Evans's constituents.

Perhaps Evans is looking at the electoral map, and has instructed his staff to ignore contacts from constituents he's got rid of in redistricting. Or maybe the difference relates to vocal political support, which Renee provides for Evans and I don't. I remember a major meeting of the Ward Two Dems, back when Evans was running for mayor. I hadn't decided how to vote. When I wandered into Evans's hospitality room, the people staffing the room greeted me with, "Are you an Evans supporter?" When I said I hadn't decided, they told me to return when I had. Since then, the only thing I've found reliable about Jack Evans's constituent services are his holiday greetings cards.

Incidentally, I wonder how much the themail postings on city councilmembers' responsiveness reflects where themail subscribers live. We haven't heard anything at all about most councilmembers. And does anyone even bother to contact at-large councilmembers about constituent problems?


License Plates and Political Messages
Stan Wellborn, 

Another reason that the District must supply an alternative license plate derives from a series of state and federal court decisions several years ago. A car owner in New Hampshire objected to the phrase “Live Free or Die” on the state license plate, and sued the government of New Hampshire. The courts decided that taxpayers should not be forced to display a political message on their cars. In the District's case, the Corporation Counsel determined that “Taxation Without Representation” is a political message, and thus DC had to provide alternative plates. Otherwise, they were sure to face legal challenges. I do not know whether the DMV provides information to car owners about the optional license tag.


Why Not Claim What You Wish to Assert
William Haskett, 

A curiosity: why does the DC license plate not make a claim of “no taxation without representation,” and settles, instead, for the quite pallid and immediately meaningless declaration that reads “taxation without representation”? Is this last a simple factual assertion, an offer, a proposal, an incomplete sentence?

Should it read, “Taxation without Representation is . . . .” (put your own choice here)? Bumper sticker non-thought is everywhere too common, so I would settle for the claim, and avoid the empty factualness of the present form of words. Is the license plate “official” in this sense? And, if so, what is it asserting, and what should it be claiming?


Question #9
Aeolian M. Jackson, 

9. You have a choice between using $7.3 million of capital improvement funds to renovate a public school to the specifications and for the use of a politically well-positioned national organization which has yet to provide hard data on its usefulness or to renovate buildings for various District citizens. Where do you put the dollars?

[This posting responds to my invitation in the last issue to send additional questions to test Mayor Williams's ability to “draw the line.” The reference is to the National Children's Alliance plans for the Gales School Building — Gary Imhoff]


Pigeon Problem
Nicholas Cobbs, 

Those who are opposed to pigeons in the ongoing debate about pigeon feeding may want to take a look at the lyrics to Tom Lehrer's “Poisoning Pigeons in the Park,”


Pigeon Hating
Nora Bawa, 

I wonder if the pigeon-haters in our midst prefer the ten pound squawking, cawing crows that have taken the place of pigeons in many neighborhoods. I don't know the ecology of birds, but it does seem that the crows appeared only after the pigeons disappeared. Then too, I wonder what St. Marks Square would be without pigeons. I used to enjoy being awakened by the soft cooing of pigeons until my next door neighbors installed some vicious-looking wire/spike contraption on their roof.

Maybe we should invite the NRA to come in to hunt them, like they do deer in the Cradle of the Confederacy. But really, have we come so far from our roots as creatures that we cannot stand any wild thing sharing our environment? Come on folks, loosen up a little! Live and let live.


DC Democrats Threaten to Throw Out David Catania Democrats
Ron Daniels, Jr., 

The DC Democratic Party Leadership has notified at DC Democrats that if they support publicly or privately David Catania for Mayor, they will be thrown out of the Democratic Party like a sack of potatoes. Councilman Catania recently made an appearance in Ward 8 and was warmly greeted by a mostly Democratic audience that encouraged the 2nd term Councilmember to run for mayor. We urge you to schedule a meet David Catania night in2002 your community at your home or a neighbor's home by calling Councilman Catania's office today at 727-1000. Hear about his legislative goals for this year and his views on the growing corruption in the District Government, and how we as citizens can make government work for all people.


Suit Against Ward 8 Redistricting Plan
Robin Denise Ijames, 

We are seeking Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners to file a class action suit against the Mendleson redistricting plan for ANC's. In Ward 8 a plan was submitted which was not approved by the Redistricting Committee. Also members of the Green Party and Independents should join this suit. Contact Commissioner Robin D. Ijames at 563-6769 or E-mail now.


Thank You, DCWatch
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, 

As the king of windbags this will be my shortest post, in honor of DCWatch. Thank you, DCWatch. (OK, it won’t be my shortest post, because I can’t stop with just that.) DCWatch offers an important public service in DC’s civil life and community. It’s not for everyone, and nothing is. But, I’m grateful that you’ve allowed me to speak. I encourage others who get even a slight urge to type some words in the public forum of DC Watch — but hesitate — to speak their voice. I can’t think of a place in the world with more promise, or one more in need of watchful and loving attention.



5th Annual DC Charter School Job Fair
Dolores Young, 

The 5th annual DC charter school job fair, presented by the DC Public Charter School Resource Center, will be held on Saturday, March 9, 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., at Howard University, Burr Gymnasium, 2400 6th Street, NW. By bus, #70 Georgia Avenue; by train, Green Line to Howard/Shaw station. Take Georgia Avenue to Gresham. See Howard University campus map at

DC Public Charter Schools offer unique learning and teaching environments. Existing public charter schools are expanding and two new schools are scheduled to open in September. All 42 campuses seek exceptional school leaders, teachers, administrative professionals, and support staff. Join us if you are interested in this exciting new industry. Registration: bring one copy of your resume to register and at least twenty to distribute. Candidates must register at the Job Fair to receive charter school profiles and job descriptions for SY 2002-03 openings.


Pediatric HIV/AIDS Care Work Day

Pediatric HIV/AIDS Care Work Day will be held Saturday, March 2, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at a center that assists, strengthens and preserves the well being of families with children affected by HIV and AIDS in the greater Washington area. The children attend, on a once a week basis, after-school programs that include dinner (provided by DC Central Kitchen/Food and Friends). A sampling of what volunteers are needed to do is carpentry, plumbing, cleaning, organize files, install ceiling fan, others are railing to basement is loose; set up room for computers; set computers on desks; determine additional equipment and furniture needs for computer area; take inventory of closet and shelves in room; clear out stairwell up to first floor; build shelving. In the classroom, organize and inventory supplies; label storage bins; list needs for room (i.e., chalk, eraser, etc.); doors under sink replaced. The Center also needs two gently used vacuum cleaners, ceiling fans, hanging drawer file cabinets and recycling bins. It is located on M Street, between 4th and 5th Streets, NW If you would like to volunteer — we need you — or have questions, please telephone either Sarah Barnett, 248-3212 home or 776-7821 office; or Gerri Graves, the Executive Director, at 347-5366.



Administrative Assistant, DC Heritage Tourism Coalition
Juanda Mixon, 

The DC Heritage Tourism Coalition is seeking an administrative assistant to provide clerical and general administrative support for Coalition staff and consultants, and in particular for the Executive Director. While the job includes basic clerical duties, it also provides opportunities to interact with a great variety of people throughout Washington, to participate in cultural programs, and to become creatively involved developing new administrative systems. The job includes the following responsibilities: General clerical: Answering the telephone, managing mail and fax; assisting with copying, mailings, and deliveries, making meeting arrangements and keeping calendars, fulfilling requests, ordering supplies, answering routine correspondence, and other clerical duties as assigned. Financial assistance: Writing checks and assisting with financial records. Computer assistance: Maintaining databases. Program assistance: Attending meetings as requested and providing general assistance for Coalition programs and special events.

Skills and aptitudes: Strong interpersonal and communication skills; ability to write and speak clearly; excellent computer skills including database entry and management; experience with Excel, Microsoft Word, and E-mail required; familiarity with Microsoft Publisher, Powerpoint, and Access a plus. Must be willing to take initiative and work in an organized and efficient manner in situations that involve multiple tasks. A college degree is preferred. A knowledge of and interest in the District of Columbia and its cultural institutions is a plus. References required. Salary: $30,000 plus benefits Fax cover letter, resume and references to 202-661-7599, attention Heritage.


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