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March 13, 2002

Insults to Your Intelligence

Dear Correspondents:

I can't resist smart alecky responses to a few of the messages below, so I've grouped my comments and demoted them to a single message just before the classifieds.

Gary Imhoff 


Chief Few Has Got to Go
Shaun Snyder, Chevy Chase, 

What more is it going to take before Fire and EMS Chief Ronnie Few is fired? He was the wrong person for the job from the beginning. The department he came from was nothing like our department. He arrived with so many accusations of poor performance that he brought up his supporters from Georgia to testify before the Council's Judiciary Committee. Basically they defended Ronnie Few by accusing his accusers of racism.

Several media outlets have reported that Chief Few has not ordered fire trucks when money has been provided for them and when our existing fleet is crippled by aging trucks. This alone should have been enough to fire him — his incompetence is playing with our lives. Then we find out that all the while he hasn't been ordering fire trucks, he HAS been ordering cars for his personal use. Including, the Washington Times reported, an expensive SUV that he won't drive now because he's afraid the mayor will be upset with him. An article in Wednesday's Washington Times shows that three top Fire/EMS officials Chief Few brought with him from Georgia lied on their resumes. They claimed to be chiefs of one kind or another in Georgia and are chiefs here, but they actually never rose above the rank of lieutenant or sergeant in Georgia. They also claimed to have attended educational institutions that have no record of their attendance. (The article can be viewed here: There are very few government agencies that have such a direct impact on saving lives as Fire/EMS does. We don't need people heading it who are not qualified for the job.

I have no idea why the mayor recruited Ronnie Few. First, Williams should have made every effort to find someone within the department to head it — someone with experience and loyalty to the District. Failing that, he should have attempted to recruit someone from a comparable department, and preferably someone with more support from his own community than Chief Few had. Agency heads should be above reproach when it comes to ethics — Ronnie Few is not. The mayor should fire Chief Few immediately.


The Marion Berry
Wendy Stengel, 

Actually, the Marion berry is not unique to Washington State. It was developed in Oregon. Marion County to be exact, by ag-scientists at Oregon State University.

It's a yummy berry.


Be Careful What You Wish For
Ed T. Barron, 

The self-proclaimed “Champion of the People,” Marion Barry, is running again. This time he is mounting a crusade to be one of the at-large DC Council members. Hard to say how successful he will be in this quest. Perhaps enough folks have had too much of Barry and he will not win. Then again, he just might beat one of the weaker incumbents. That will be the signal that should turn off any plans for DC Statehood. Oh yes, the slogan says “Representation,” but that cannot be realistically achieved without statehood.

Those who advocate statehood for DC should be very wary if Barry wins. Statehood for DC will likely mean that we will have Jesse Jackson as a DC Senator and Marion Barry as a Congressman. Can Al Sharpton, now running for Governor of NY, be far behind to complete the trifecta? This possibility would produce a lifetime of yucks for the late night comics, Leno and Letterman, with DC as the laughing stock of the universe. Be careful what you wish for.


The Ghosts of DC Past
Mark Richards, West of the River and East of the Park, 

If there is a lack of leadership today, it isn't because there aren't intelligent and capable people of every skin tone in DC-and Marion Barry should only blame himself for not having helped develop a new generation of leaders. Mr. Barry had his turn; he should help others run and take a back-seat role where he doesn't do more harm than good for the DC he claims to represent. Sam Smith, one of the founders of the DC statehood movement, articulated my biggest problem with Mr. Barry back in 1986 in an article titled “Bring in the Clowns.” He wrote, “That Barry administration has soiled the reputation of the city and has hurt our drive for further self-government.” See As for Tyson, well, I'm still not laughing. Does DC's future have to be its past, the eternal return, over and over and over? What a depressing thought.


Licenses, Human Rights, and Tyson
Kristen Hansen, 

Under DC Code Section 2-1402.67, licenses issued by or on behalf of the District of Columbia “shall require and be conditioned upon” full compliance with the DC Human Rights Charter. Tyson's conduct, specifically his repeated acts of violence against women, violate the spirit if not the letter of the Human Rights provisions of the DC Code. I'm appalled that the Boxing Commission and the Mayor have given the City's “stamp of approval” to Tyson.


Tyson Fighting in DC
Joan Eisenstodt, 

What happened? How did it happen? Why were all the voices at the meeting in favor of this? Isn't anyone concerned about how we look to the rest of the world? We are dealing with so much about reputation and perception because of the terrorist issues (including anthrax scares) and now this! Oy.


The Boxing and Wrestling Commission’s Public Meeting
Dorothy Brizill, 

Three weeks ago the Boxing and Wrestling Commission indicated that in a closed-door meeting they had decided to issue Mike Tyson a license to box in DC. They quickly backed away from that position after public furor arose against the Williams administration, and when Mayor Williams made it clear that it was the policy of the administration to give the impression that there had been an open, deliberative process before issuing the predetermined decision. The administration decided that the Commission could interview Tyson in a private, secret session last week, with no audio, video, or written transcript of the meeting — and with no medical or psychological examination results — being made public. The administration also decided that the Commission could deliberate in private as long as it announced its vote at a public meeting.

Last night's meeting, then, was purely for show, and the show was as fixed as any boxing match ever promoted by Don King. In the audience were fight promoter Rock Newman, professional boxer Keith Holmes, and religious leaders Rev. Willie Wilson and Minister Abdul Muhammed, as well as the New Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, the Alliance of Concerned Black Men, Ceasefire Don't Smoke the Brothers, and the newly formed ad hoc group Women in Support of Tyson. DC's diverse population didn't show — there were only a handful of whites, Hispanics, and Asians; no representatives from the Mayor's office, the Council, the Board of Trade, NOW; and no ministers aside from Wilson and Muhammed. There was, however, a substantial police presence inside and outside of the room.

Segments of the audience appeared to have been mobilized by Rock Newman, who has been visiting DC from Las Vegas for the past several weeks. His efforts recalled the get-out-the-vote campaign he organized for Marion Barry in the past. Tyson supporters arrived very early, 30-45 minutes prior to the start of the meeting, took over most of the seats, and quickly established a tone for the room, on at least one occasion leading the audience in a chant of “Let Mike Fight.” The Commission required all witnesses to sign up on a list made available about forty-five minutes before the meeting started, from which they would be called in order to make their one-minute statements. The first person who was called was William Lockridge, who hadn't yet arrived because he was at another meeting. The third witness called was Rev. Willie Wilson, who had just arrived.

The most important actions taken by the Boxing Commission last night, however, weren't reported in any newspapers. The Commission approved fight promoter licenses for three political players who are positioning themselves to get a piece of the action in any Tyson fight. The three are PMG, Inc.; Omni Group Productions, Inc.; and Holloway & Co., PLLC. PMG is a joint venture led by Rock Newman's firm, involving corporate lawyer Jeff Fried and sports agent Nathan Peake. Omni Group is led by school board vice chairman William Lockridge. And the Holloway who is president of Holloway and Co. is Gregory Holloway, the owner of GLM Real Estate Management. The Church Association for Community Service was chosen by HUD for a sweetheart real estate deal at the urging of the DC government after the association laundered political donations for Mayor Williams. CACS then hired GLM to renovate 300 HUD houses for sale to low-income buyers. GLM's failure to perform led to HUD's decision last week to take back 250 of the houses from CACS.


Rock Creek Bike Path
David Hunter, 

I think it would be much easier for bikers/joggers etc., to have a continuous bike path that joins up to the path around the Maryland line. Right now, the path stops at Broad Branch (where the traffic is shut off on weekends) I have found that during last falls nice weather I wanted to get up and ride Rock Creek before work but the fear factor of having to ride on that section of road with weekday traffic made me think twice about it. Have there ever been any plans about continuing the bike/jogger path from Broad Branch to the Maryland line so you could ride all the way to Mt. Vernon any day of the week without the onslaught of cars?


Vanity Tags . . . Do They Still Make Them?
Shaun Snyder, Chevy Chase, 

While we're on the subject of license plates, I ordered a vanity tag back in November of '01. It was approved shortly thereafter, but I have yet to hear back from DMV. The website said it would take 6-8 weeks to process (which I assumed meant get the plate to me). I placed a call today only to be told that they're not printing them right now and I should try back in the future. They took my $40 right away but don't seem in a hurry to print the tag.

I know they're using a different plate shop since the closing of Lorton, but they should warn people on the web site if there are going to be significant delays in processing orders.


Not Outrageous
Ed T. Barron, 

The compensation of $200K annually for some consultants to District agencies has been characterized by many as outrageous. Let's put that figure in perspective. Consultants are hired for their expertise and experience in showing others how to do the right things right. They get no benefits such as paid sick leave, paid vacation, pension, or medical benefits. If you look at the top level of the DC Government you will find a horde of individuals making more than $200K per year when you include their bennies and pensions. Most of these highly paid, so-called managers, could not hold a candle to the consultants employed by the District. These managers are the ones overpaid in DC

If the District would evolve to a functional Team based organization from the current wasteful, inefficient hierarchical bureaucracy, there would be far less need for consultants and a far lower cost to operate all District agencies. There would also be a full measure of accountability in each agency. The consultants are earning their keep for the Mayor.


Fading First
Gregory Diaz, 

In response to Art Spitzer's query as to what was going on with the preacher man, his reference to a podium may explain the genesis of the man's permit, as he was indeed using a podium when the police first arrived and demanded his papers. But that fails to adequately explain: (1) why they needed ten officers, (2) why they didn't leave right away once they saw that he did indeed have a permit, (3) why they made him leave the podium, and (4) why they were so obviously were out to inconvenience him. There may be an explanation for all of this, but I can only say that it looked to this observer as yet another example of the police overreaction in this city that was a problem even before the events of September 11th. I personally would be loath to stand up and start venting because I feel that the cops would bash me if they could find the slightest excuse. I'm chilled, and not just based on this one incident!


FOIA Fantasies
Kathy Patterson, 

Jonetta Rose Barras knows better and so does the moderator with regard to legislation I've initiated to significantly broaden the Freedom of Information Act in the District. Points Jonetta missed in her recent e-zine attack: FOIA does not and never has applied to the Congress. The DC FOIA amendments I introduced and that were enacted last year explicitly applied the law to the DC Council, which had never been the case before and has been done in only a handful of states legislatures. Those amendments also provided for electronic FOIA requests and several other good government provisions. The FOIA bill that is pending before the Council is a technical addition to make clear that the very same “deliberative process” exemption that has always applied to the Executive — and the local and federal level — also applies to the Council. It is likely not even necessary given case law and is the subject of a public hearing later this week. I welcome any constructive comments on the technical proposal as well as any other option that anyone thinks would promote access, and hope in the future writers for themail gets their facts straight.


Fuzzy Math?
Kurt Vorndran, 

While I firmly believe that the increase in DC property values is creating some tax burdens that must be addressed, in order to do so we first need some clear thinking. Gary Imhoff suggested that with the proposed 25 percent cap, it "would mean that for every $1,000 you pay in property taxes this year, you'll pay . . . no more than $6,793.75 ten years from now." That, of course, presumes that the value of one's property increases 25 percent a year for ten years straight. If anyone in DC government can guarantee me a 25 percent return over each of the next ten years on my property or any other investment, I will prepare myself for the proverbial kissing of their hind quarters in Macy's window at High Noon.

Victor Chudowsky makes a similar error, claiming the federal government does not increase income taxes as DC property taxes are raised. Oh so very wrong. If the value of your paycheck goes up 20 percent, expect an increased federal tax liability just as the increase in tax when your property value goes up. Let's provide some relief for folks on this matter, but let us at least be sensible as to what we are doing.


Tax Assessments in themail
Michael Bindner, 

Tax assessments are going up because property values are going up, period. One of the reasons for this increase is the $5,000 federal tax credit for first time DC home buyers. People are using that credit to either buy or to relocate in DC. Also, housing prices went up as people bought houses during the tech boom (which was more a function of paper wealth as people got rich exercising their stock options — unless they dumped their stock, many of those options are now worthless). These things have nothing to do with better service, as Victor Chudowsky would expect. If the Council were to raise the tax rate, we would expect better service.

Some are calling for an assessment cap. I'm not sure this is advisable — as no one calls for a floor when property values go the other way — which they will in not too much time. My friends in the business tell me that DC property values are grossly inflated, and that they will eventually go down. Perhaps readers should use the high values as a reason to sell and cash out the profits — then rent for a while until the price goes down again.


Property Taxes
Kenneth Katz, kskatz/remove_me/ 

First, for clarity: my proposed property rate did not jump 30 percent — my proposed assessment did. Victor Chudowsky wrote: “True, we have no representation before Congress, but on the other hand the federal government isn't slamming us with 20 percent increases every year like the District's.” I suspect that were we able to collect the income tax due from the commuters, our property tax rate would drop (though our valuations would remain the same), and theirs would increase. The point is, and most do forget it, that lack of equal participation in democracy is not merely an intellectual insult, but does great damage materially to those not represented. No, full participation would not cure our inner-city problems magically, but lack thereof certainly worsens them.

Finally, I am enamored of the method mentioned in themail a week or two ago of spreading the increased valuation over time with a per year increase limit of 7 percent. I especially like this because it is clear that the property assessment system is inherently biased towards incorporating increases in value but not decreases: a down housing market is one in which there are many more units for sale then buyers, thus the odds of a sale on my block to provide strong evidence for a downward assessment are quite low. Whereas in an up market the odds of such a sale on my block are greatly increased. Since such comparable housing sales are central in assessments, it seems the system really is kind of rigged against us. Seems inevitable, but more the reason why such an ameliorating mechanism as the one to which I refer above should be considered . . . strongly. In short, Kathy Patterson was worried about her angry constituents getting these huge assessment increases — she ought to be!


Smart Aleky Comebacks
Gary Imhoff, 

To Shaun Snyder: at today's press conference, Mayor Williams and City Administrator John Koskinen strongly supported Chief Few and berated the Washington Times for exposing the false resumes of three of Few's top managers imported from Georgia. But is that a surprise? Have Williams and Koskinen ever seen a phony resume or doctored job application that they didn't like? Also to Shaun: in answer to a question at DMV's Council budget hearing, Sherryl Hobbs-Newman said that DMV hasn't supplied vanity plates for several months, but should begin production against in April. But be careful when you ask DMV whether your plates will be available then — a friend was sharply reprimanded and put in her proper subservient place by a DMV supervisor last week when she inquired about the license plates she had ordered: “You can't order plates; you can only request them.”

To Kathy Patterson: this is the exact wording of your legislation: “All exemptions available under this section shall apply to the Council of the District of Columbia as well as executive branch agencies of the District of Columbia government. The deliberative process privilege, the attorney work-product privilege, and the attorney-client privilege are incorporated under the interagency memoranda exemption listed in subsection (a)(4), and these privileges, among other privileges that may be found by the court, shall extend to any public body that is subject to this act. Memoranda created by and exchanged between staff and members of the District of Columbia Council shall be exempt from disclosure to the extent that such memoranda represent predecisional documents that were written in the process of developing legislation, drafting budget reports, or conducting oversight hearings.” I may be slow, but I still don't think this broadens FOIA and increases public access to information.

To Kurt Vondran and Michael Binder: I don't presume that property values would rise 25 percent a year, but merely that tax assessments would, if 25 percent were the cap. I don't trust that property tax assessments reflect property values accurately, and I certainly don't believe that assessments fall when values do; that is contrary to experience. In this burg, assessments and values are quite independent, and afflicted homeowners quite reasonably believe that assessments are based more on the revenue desires of the city government than on property values.



Free Property Tax Clinic to Help Residents Affected by Tax Spike
Beth Solomon, 

Many DC residents have been hit with property tax assessment hikes of 60 percent or more. In response, the Ward 2 Democrats will sponsor a free clinic for DC residents affected by the surging assessments: “Property Tax Clinic: How to Challenge an Excessive Assessment,” with Carol Mitten, Tuesday, March 19, 7 p.m., Room 104, John A. Wilson Bldg., 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Ms. Mitten, a principal of Mitten & Reynolds, is a leading DC real estate appraiser. She shares her knowledge in evaluating and challenging excessive or questionable DC government assessments. The deadline to challenge property tax assessments is April 1, 2002. The Ward 2 Democrats is the official organization representing Democratic voters in Ward 2 of the District of Columbia. Budd Lane, the Chairman, can be reached at 234-7921. For more information, contact: Beth Solomon, Ward 2 Democrats Issues Chair, 789-7864.


Protest Taxation without Representation
Kristen Hansen, 

On Sunday, March 24, thousands of runners from across the United States and around the world will compete in the inaugural running of the Washington, DC, Marathon. When the runners assemble at the starting line, however, many will be unaware that residents of Washington, DC, pay U.S. federal taxes, but lack representation in the U.S. Congress! Since the DC Marathon is being promoted as a celebration of Washington, DC, DC Vote is seeking volunteers to help educate runners, sports writers, and race spectators about DC residents' lack of voting rights. On race day, you can promote democracy and protest taxation without representation in by participating in one or more of several marathon-related activities:

Greet runners as they cross the starting line with signs, hats, and banners welcoming them to the land of “Taxation Without Representation”! Join Shadow Representative John Capozzi on the race course as he and other runners take turns carrying a “Taxation Without Representation” City Flag in relay! Running the marathon? Wear a “Taxation Without Representation” cap or T-shirt! Staff a table at the “Runner's Expo” at the DC Armory on March 23. Although disappointed that race organizers scheduled the Marathon on Palm Sunday, DC Vote recognizes that the Marathon offers unique opportunities for educational outreach on voting rights, and appreciates and supports the efforts that are being made to ensure that churchgoers will not be prevented from attending services because of the Marathon. For more information or to volunteer on race day, contact Jamal Najjab at or Kristen Hansen at


Budget Training
Susie Cambria, 

The Fair Budget Coalition's Advocacy Initiative to Meet Human Needs is sponsoring its annual budget training: What in the Mayor's Proposed FY 2003 Budget Impacts Human Services? The event will be held on March 21 from 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. at St. Aloysius Church, 19 I Street, NW. Highlights of this interactive training are: an overview of what is included in the budget; an explanation of the capital budget, why it's important and how it works; a discussion of how to read the budget in its new format; and information on efforts to make the budget more useful and transparent. The schedule is: 9:30-10:00 a.m., registration; and 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m., program (starts promptly at 10:00 a.m.). Those who should attend the training are service providers, advocates, residents, and budget newcomers and old-timers. Registration materials are available by calling DC Action for Children, 234-9404, or E-mailing Fee: for Fair Budget Coalition members, $8; for nonmembers, $12. Registration deadline: March 19.


Baseball Clinic
John Vocino, 

On Saturday, March 16th, DC inner-city kids will have an opportunity to brush up on their Baseball and Fastpitch Softball skills at a free clinic. Held at the DC Armory from 9 a.m.-4 p.m., the Clinic will be run by former Minor League professional and collegiate baseball players. Clinics will be broken down by age groups and times: 9 a.m.-noon, ages 5-12; 11 a.m.-1 p.m., coaches clinic; 1 p.m.-4 p.m., ages 13-18. Sponsored by, the Baseball Factory, DC Sports and Entertainment Commission, Giant Foods, Colonial Parking, The Kerry S. Pearson LLC, and the District of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department. Players of all ages and skill levels will receive instruction on hitting, pitching, base running, and fielding. Coaches will also have a clinic with tips on organizing a practice, position instruction, strategy, and positive coaching techniques.

While the Event is free and open to the public, a suggested donation of $5 per player and $20 per coach is being asked to cover expenses. Visuals include: Large amounts of ball players of all ages out on an early spring day. Players interacting with volunteer coaches and kids learning the finer points of baseball. is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bringing together city and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations, along with area businesses with an interest in youth and amateur baseball at all age levels city wide to improve existing facilities, develop new fields, offer greater access to leagues around the city, and improve and sustain baseball’s infrastructure of coaches, umpires, clinicians, and players. For more information, contact Matt Cary at 414-0792, or E-mail


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, 2002, 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



DC Tax Sale Foreclosure Cases
Alex Djordjevich, 

If you are a DC Tax Sale Purchaser from the tax sales in 2000 or 2001 and you are unclear about the new procedure in the District for obtaining a deed to the property, please call or E-mail Alex Djordjevich ( or 530-7163). Our law firm, Griffin, Farmer & Murphy, LLP, is currently taking on new clients who are interested in getting title to properties purchased at the July 2001 DC tax sale. The procedure is new as of January 2002. The DC Superior Court will be promulgating new procedures for the tax foreclosure suits this week. Don't delay because there are time limitations on these suits. If you want more information on our firm and our extensive real estate and litigation expertise, please visit Dupont Circle main location with other offices in Greenbelt and Annapolis.



One-Time Job Assignment
Roy Kaufmann, 

Looking for bookkeeper to set up my computer system in Quicken or QuickBooks and leave me simple, written instructions on operation thereafter. Must be familiar with and


Occasional Reader in Search of Voice Coach
Sid Booth, 

As an amateur reader for a few blind neighbors and a news service, I find that I get hoarse surprisingly quickly — and often. I could use some advice on how to continue this volunteer work while also saving my voice. At the least, I suspect my breathing mechanics need improvement. I would appreciate referral to a voice coach with whom I could work. It would be swell if I could find someone close to home in Mt. Pleasant, but I'd venture to the Beltway for the right person. Suggestions via E-mail or at 483-5409.



Condo, Townhouse Wanted
Nick Cobbs, 

I am looking for a two-bedroom co-op, condo, or townhouse, west of Rock Creek Park, for under $300,000. If you know of anything coming on the market, please let me know.


Room with Family
Nora Bawa, 

A young Japanese woman coming to DC in May to do grad study at American U. is looking for an affordable place, preferably with a US family. If you know of such, please E-mail me so I can refer you.



Got a Mobile/Rolling Air Conditioner?
Jason Ziedenberg, 

Looking for a cheap/used/"I'm fleeing to Alaska" of the mini non-window unit kind. E-mail me if you want to pass on cool, cheap:


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