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March 3, 2002

Books Unread

Dear Readers:

Thomas Wentworth Higginson is best known today for the two or three years that he spent commanding a black regiment in the Civil War, but during his lifetime he was best known as a writer. A charming essay of his is “Parts of a Man's Life: Books Unread,” in which this paragraph appears: “Matthew Arnold once replied to a critic who accused him of a lack of learning that the charge was true, but that he often wished he had still less of that possession, so hard did he find it to carry lightly what he knew. The only knowledge that involves no burden lies, it may be justly claimed, in the books that are left unread. I mean those which remain undisturbed, long and perhaps forever, on a student's bookshelves; books for which he possibly economized, and to obtain which he went without his dinner; books on whose backs his eyes have rested a thousand times, tenderly and almost lovingly, until he has perhaps forgotten the very language in which they are written. He has never read them, yet during these years there has never been a day when he would have sold them; they are a part of his youth. In dreams he turns to them; in dreams he reads Hebrew again; he knows what a Differential Equation is; 'how happy could he be with either.' He awakens, and whole shelves of his library are, as it were, like fair maidens who smiled on him in their youth but once, and then passed away. Under different circumstances, who knows but one of them might have been his? As it is, they have grown old apart from him; yet for him they retain their charms.”

It's true. I was once well educated. In high school I couldn't read Hebrew or Greek, but I could read Latin. I did know what a differential equation was. I could do calculus and trigonometry, and I even knew what they were good for. I knew something about physics and chemistry; I had a rudimentary knowledge of world history and literature; and I could play the piano and clarinet pretty well. That was all in the past. As I have aged, I have slipped free of most of my knowledge; it hasn't burdened me because I have left it behind me. Instead of being well and broadly educated, I have learned more and more about less and less. And the saddest thing is that what I know most about is the DC government. Instead of a misspent youth, I have had a misspent adulthood.

Gary Imhoff 


Ivan Walks’ Resignation
Carolyn Curtis, 

The Washington Post carried the story about Ivan Walks' resignation from the Department of Health effective May 1, 2002. Does it seem curious as to why he would leave so soon after the glowing report of a reduction in infant mortality? On February 20, 2002, the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) visited Greater Southeast on 2/20/02 to 2/25/02 for its survey that occurs every three years. Public testimony is a part of the survey process by JCAHO, and it provides information for them to consider for investigation during the time of the survey.

On February 20, 2002, public testimony was given before the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of HealthCare Organizations by members of the DC Health Care Coalition and other citizens and union members. Their testimony included examples of patient deaths due to gross negligence, refusal of specialists to treat Healthcare Alliance patients; safety concerns for the public and patients because arrestees in handcuffs are allowed to sit in public areas (arrestees are handcuffed to beds at DC General sometimes for four to five hours); the kitchen at DC General is not open after 4 p.m. on weekdays and closed on weekends. During this time there is no facility for food for the patients or staff; special diet food is not available. Food is delivered on Friday night, stored in Styrofoam containers, and it must last until Monday (or Tuesday, if Monday is a holiday); there have been no fire or disaster drills at DC General since Greater Southeast assumed management of the facility; patients at DC General are subjected to delays and excessive wait times for transport to inpatient services, with wait times of 24 to 48 hours in the DC General emergency room before they can be transported to Greater Southeast for admission; GSECH engages in practices that result in denial of care to a particularly vulnerable population; no hot water in the DCG clinic during February 2002 and November 2001.

Greater Southeast Community Hospital received a rating of 84 on its last survey done by JCAHO in December 1998. This rating was the lowest of all hospitals in Washington, DC. Loss of accreditation by the JACHO results in the inability to bill Medicaid for services rendered. The Medicaid population makes up the group of individuals who are eligible to participate in the DC Health Care Alliance. Perhaps the results of this most recent JCAHO survey is what has sent Dr. Walks packing.


DC’s Newest Euphemism: “Reservation 13”
Thomas C. Hall, 

From the Washington Business Journal, March 1-7, 2002 edition: “. . . District officials have surgically removed 'DC General Hospital' from all cityspeak references to the 67-acre site on which the controversial, closed hospital sits just south of RFK Stadium. It’s now officially 'Reservation 13,' a euphemism that is far less likely to stir protests, as occurred last summer when the District’s only public hospital was closed. Mayor Tony Williams pulled the plug on DC General, despite a 13-0 vote by the DC Council to keep the hospital open.

“DC Planning Director Andy Altman says the new name wasn’t chosen for its political correctness. 'It’s just more accurate to call it “Reservation 13,”' Altman says. 'DC General is only part of the picture at that site.' The Office of Planning ( is holding site tours and public discussions March 1-3 on the future uses of DC Gen — oops, Reservation 13. The federally owned campus is being transferred to District control.”


Short Takes
Dorothy Brizill, 

Quotes of the week: “Citizens have lost confidence in the ability of the DC government to do real economic development in neighborhoods,” Councilmember Adrian Fenty at a February 28 oversight hearing of the Council Committee on Economic Development. Fenty was expressing his frustration regarding the poor performance of community development corporations in Ward 4 and his anger that the DC government continues to fund and work with them.

“I get to appoint a lot of commissioners and they get a view that they are Supreme Court judges, [that] they are independent and don't have to listen to me. So what you gonna do?” Mayor Williams, expressing his frustration over the fact that independent boards and commissions, particularly the DC Local Business Opportunity Commission and the Taxicab Commission, actually act independently.

Comings and goings: Kwasi Holman, former Director of the DC Office of Business and Economic Development under Marion Barry and former president of the DC Chamber of Commerce, has returned to the DC government payroll as Director of Business Development at the National Capital Revitalization Corporation. Meanwhile, Richard Monteilh, formerly Director of the DC Department of Housing and Community Development, has suddenly submitted his resignation as the current president of the DC Chamber of Commerce.

Yet another going: Ivan Walks' resignation as Director of the Department of Health surprised many, but others had expected it. Walks' relationship with the Executive Office of the Mayor, particularly with Chief of Staff Kelvin Robinson, had deteriorated over the past four months. Some observers of the EOM believe that Robinson resented the press attention Walks was receiving. Robinson tried to deflate Walks' ego and put him “in his place” by criticizing Walks' performance during the EOM's annual review of cabinet members. In a stormy meeting, Robinson criticized Walks for failing to develop an effective rat abatement program, among other things. The mayor's staff also privately acknowledges that the controversy surrounding the closure of DC General will dog Williams' reelection campaign, and that Walks' resignation, effective May 1, will remove a public symbol of that closure prior to the summer campaign season.


Another Amazing Example of Representation
David Berry, Capitol Hill, 

According to the Washington Post, Council Member Ambrose said the following in response to the rise in property taxes for Capitol Hill: “'Oh my goodness. That's shocking,' said DC Council member Sharon Ambrose (D), whose Ward 6 includes the Hill. 'Capitol Hill folks will not be happy at all.'” I thought it was her job to know what the DC Government was doing and represent our interests. I wasn't shocked about the news about property taxes, and unfortunately I'm not shocked about the lack of representation.

I would happy to pay additional property taxes if there was any real expectation that DC Government services would improve — if I could park on my Capitol Hill street while Congress was in session, if the streets/sidewalks would be repaired, if the sewer system in my neighborhood was properly repaired, if the Metropolitan police patrolled the park in front of my house on a regular basis, if the burned out street lights were replaced, or if my DC City Council Representative paid attention to what was going on around her. (I would be willing to pay a lot more if DC had good public schools and a good public health program.)


Citizens’ Guide to the Congressional Approval Process for DC
Mark Richards, Dupont East, 

Gary has kindly posted my “final” version of what started calling the “Rider Report” during the Appropriations process ( The purpose of this report is to make the process more transparent and to show the extent of federal amendments to DC's budget. This version is a case study reflecting the beginning to end process for gaining Congressional approval for DC's current (FY 2002) operating budget. Although I find nothing is ever perfect, I have tried to be responsive incorporating new learning/information drawn to my attention. I have also inserted verbatim quotes from Congressional leaders so you can see just what they argue about DC and their role on the floor of Congress. I hope this will be useful as DC prepares, yet again, to have its local budget approved by Congress. It is beyond the scope of this document to study inefficiencies and waste in DC's government. Members of DCWatch address that subject quite nicely.

Here are three comments I draw from watching the FY 2002 process: (1) The amendments forbidding DC from using its own funds for either DC statehood or voting rights lumps both "pressure groups" together as one. These egregious and insulting riders have received no attention in the media. There are stories to be told about these riders. Nevertheless, nothing forbids DC's elected officials from speaking out on this issue, so they should turn up the volume. Put Taxation without Representation on DC's flag until Congress honors the man whose coat of arms it represents It is an insult to fly is coat of arms over an area that still doesn't share in the benefits of what he fought for. And, nothing stops DC's officials from funding our statehood Delegation. Elected officials should work with our current and future statehood Delegation to develop transparent objectives and milestones and link funding to product. (2) DC can stop amendments if it is well organized in cooperation with national organizations with good lobbyists. Congresswoman Norton's office could help by providing more information. The coalition-building example this year is the removal of the restriction forbidding DC from using local funds to implement its Domestic Partnership Law. My understanding is that without Human Rights Campaign involvement this would not have occurred. So the time is now to think about coalition building. (3) Senator Paul Strauss (D-DC) pointed out to me that this year's process is a new first-in 2002 Congress effectively micromanaged and legislated in all three branches of DC's government, including the judiciary. It modified DC's Home Rule Charter without citizen approval. If you think DC can ever have a stable local government while it is under the exclusive legislative authority of Congress, think again. Only a status change can solve this problem. Until that time, Congress is DC's unelected “legislature,” and DC's Mayor and Council are merely facilitators to whom Congress has delegated limited powers to help them achieve their “responsibility.” DC voters have the honor of electing its “legislator's” helpers. Thank the Buddha for that!


Disappointments in Public Education: Hang ’Em on the Schools or the Parent(s)?
Len Sullivan, 

Why should poorer school kids do so much worse in public schools than better off kids? It must be more than the school lunches and household income. What can we learn from the Census data? And what are the latest trends in nationwide poverty? Who's poor now and where are they living? And is there any connection to our interest in designing a new “capitol esplanade”? The answers can be found in the March update of the NARPAC web site at Take a look. Get positively involved.


Jack Evans
Valerie Kenyon Gaffney, 

Re: “Jack Evans Delivers — for Deep Pockets” by Nick Keenan and “Jack Evans's Responsiveness” by David Sobelsohn — well said! I have lived in Evens' district for all of the ten years I have lived in DC. Although I have only attempted contact with Mr. Evans on a couple of occasions, I have never — not once! — heard back from him, not even by way of the say nothing form letter responses one receives from the Mayor's office. Evans certainly doesn't represent me and as far as I'm concerned, given an opportunity (by anyone!) to unseat him in the next election, I will willingly vote for that anyone so that Evans will no longer NOT represent me.


Bursting Your Bubble
Richard Worthington-Rogers, 

When a carryout restaurant near 9th and O Streets, NW, was diverting sewage into the storm drain, I called Jack Evans' office. The very next day the Health Department was on site and shut the violator down.


DC Democrats
Kurt Vorndran, 

Ron Daniels misses the facts by a country mile in his post last week concerning the DC Democratic Party. He claimed 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.”

Point #1: the DC Democratic Party has 254,628 enrolled members. They have received no such notice from the Party leadership. Point #2: the Party has no means to determine what individual Democrats do privately. Democrats who punch a Republican ballot in the privacy of the voting booth or admit to their sin of voting Republican in the privacy of the confessional do so without any knowledge or oversight of the Party leaders. Neither of these locations have any of the new video cameras we have heard so much about. Point #3: elected Party leaders are not even required to publicly support the Party ticket. However, those who are officers of the Party are required not to publicly oppose the Party ticket. Those who violate this are not thrown out of the Party, as was falsely claimed. They maintain their membership and all rights. However, they are and should be removed as Party officers. The Republicans follow the same practice.


DC Residency Requirement Unconstitutional?
Taylor T. Simmons, 

I think Mr. Sobelsohn has pointed out an interesting angle here. Suppose the Maryland-residing DC Inspector General, Charles Maddox, were to defend against calls for his ouster by claiming that the DC residency requirement (and the resultant disenfranchisement) was unconstitutional? Or suppose he was fired, and then successfully sued the city for wrongful dismissal on those grounds. The question is, would such a finding in a court of law do anything to support the city's case for full voting representation with the U.S. Congress? Or would it merely stand as yet another example of DC citizens' disenfranchisement?


DC Residency Requirement
David Sobelsohn, 

The constitutionality of residency requirements for municipal employees would not be a question of first impression for the federal courts. Although I don't have the citations handy, I'm pretty sure there are a few appellate rulings and perhaps even a Supreme Court ruling — most of which support the constitutionality of the requirements.


License Plate Slogans
John Whiteside, 

Actually, the “Taxation Without Representation” slogan fits in with a tradition of tag slogans that simply identify an identifying characteristic or nickname of a state. Florida is the “Sunshine State,” Illinois is the “Land of Lincoln,” Connecticut is the “Constitution State” (although that, like the state's Charter Oak references, refers to the state's constitution, not the US one). Montana has “Big Sky,” New Mexico is the “Land of Enchantment,” and DC has “Taxation Without Representation.” I would love someone who thinks it's a political statement to explain why — seems like an observation of fact to me, and the only political piece is how one feels about taxation without representation.


Slogans without Representation
Larry Lesser, 

To the question why anyone would resist having “Taxation Without Representation” on their license plate: I don't want to have political slogans on my car, simple as that. I'll decide where and when to let people know my political positions.


Messages on License Plates
John Wheeler, 

I think people commenting on the requirement that people have a choice of no message if a license plate has a political message are not correctly interpreting the New Hampshire situation. New Hampshire license plates have the slogan, “Live Free or Die” on it. My recollection is that someone taped over that message and the person received a citation for concealing part of the license plate. My recollection is that the court held (it may have gone all the way to U.S. Supreme Court) that under the First Amendment, the state cannot prevent someone from covering up the political statement. Likewise, you could cover up “Sunshine State” on Florida's plates. But I don't think DC is required to give you an alternative plate if you don't like the “Taxation Without Representation” slogan currently on the plates. If you don't like it, put tape on the message.



Low Cost Green Solutions for Rowhouses
Alan Abrams, 

This is your friendly reminder that the Green Building Network will be hosting its meeting next Tuesday, March 5. Again, the location and time has been changed due to the topic and guest speakers. The meeting will be from 2:00 - 4:00 p.m. at the Benton Building in Baltimore, near the City Hall.

The topic of this month's meeting will be innovative green building techniques for low-income rowhouse owners. We are extremely fortunate to have representatives from the Philadelphia Energy Coordinating Agency come down and explain their Cool Homes Program. Since 1993, there have been over 250 deaths in the city directly related to “killer heat waves.” To address this very serious problem, the Program provides low-income rowhouse owners with reflective roofing materials. This has been shown to dramatically decrease the indoor air temperature, and thereby saving countless lives. It also directly addresses the Urban Heat Island Effect. The second presentation will be from Dr. Mark Bundy, DNR, and Julie Gabrielli, AIA-COTE, on their study on implementing green building techniques in Baltimore low-income rowhouse renovations and rehabilitations. Mark and Julie will provide preliminary data on whether green building techniques can be used without significant increases in design and construction costs. This should be an outstanding presentation, especially for local government representatives addressing low-income and/or close communities. As always, please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.


Conversations with Newsmakers
Kathy Sinzinger, 

Join us for another in a series of monthly, after-work networking opportunities. The Common Denominator presents the second of its conversations with newsmakers on Friday, March 15, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Kelly's Ellis Island Restaurant, 3908 12th Street, NE, in Brookland.

Our special guest this month will be Timothy Jenkins, interim president of the University of the District of Columbia. In recent testimony before the city council, Jenkins dubbed himself a “citizens' president — freer to tell the truth” than his predecessors because he is not seeking permanent appointment as UDC president. In this critical time for UDC, when it is trying to rebuild the vision for the District's only public institution of higher learning into reality and get itself on a solid financial footing for the future, President Jenkins will join us in an informal gathering to discuss the status of UDC.

No reservations are necessary to attend this event. Cash bar. (Ellis Island also offers a full dinner menu.) Free parking is available on and off the street. Ellis Island also is within walking distance of the Brookland/CUA stop on Metro's Red Line. For directions or more information, call Kathy Sinzinger at The Common Denominator at 635-6397 or E-mail her at


Open Space Forum No. 8
Ivor Heyman, 

Do you believe in engaging in open and honest dialogue about matters affecting our society and personal lives? Open Space Forum No. 8: Understanding Conflict with Others as a Form of Conflict within Ourselves, Saturday, March 16, 4:30 - 7 p.m.,: DCJCC, 1529 16th Street NW (Enter through Q Street entrance), $5.

What to Bring: a snack for the group and paint brushes and/or masking tape for the upcoming renovation of a homeless shelter by the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service. Hosted by: Ivor Heyman (  nd the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service. The central theme we will explore this month in the Open Space Forum is how we can reframe our conflicts with others as struggles that exist within ourselves. The Open Space Forum meets informally on a monthly basis, bringing together a group of people from diverse backgrounds to discuss issues in an open and inclusive way. Please visit for more information on the Open Space Forum.



Movie Tickets
Laurie England, 

Two movie tickets for free admission at any Cineplex Odeon, Regal or AMC movie theater. Good for any seating Monday through Thursday. $12/best offer for both. Responses to



Ryan Edelstein,

I'm looking for recommendations for a plumber to do some minor repairs and possibly some renovations. Anyone happy with their plumber?


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