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March 20, 2002

Citizens, to the Ramparts

Dear Taxpayers:

In this issue, Zinnia and Ann Loikow issue what I think is a clear and convincing call for a taxpayer's rebellion. There is no need to accept an excessive and unsupported increase in your property assessment and in your resulting tax bill. There is no reason to accept the City Council's recently imposed cap of a twenty-five percent yearly increase in assessments as a “reasonable” compromise or concession. So don't accept it. If you think your assessment is too high, take Zinnia's advice and appeal. Encourage your neighbors to appeal; get your whole block to appeal. If you're a renter, encourage your house's or apartment's owner to appeal — their tax increase will eventually show up in your rent. If you can't get all the information you need together in time for the short April 1st deadline, appeal anyway, and supplement your appeal later with any additional information. Request your assessor's worksheet and comparable sales listings from the Office of Tax and Revenue; if they don't get them back to you in time for your April 1st appeal; note that in your appeal in order to justify including that information later.

Peter Craig, mentioned in Ann Loikow's message, has developed a good argument that this year's entire assessment process was based on a “market trends” analysis that has been found to be invalid by both the DC Board of Real Property Assessments and Appeals and by the courts. [See the article in today's Washington Post,] Craig is preparing a lawsuit over the process, but in the meantime his argument can be used in any appeal.

The point is that if only a thousand citizens appeal their property tax assessments again this year, the city government will conclude that it has gotten away with an outrageous tax increase, and that it can do it again next year and the year after. On the other hand, if several thousand citizens appeal, not only will the system break down under the volume of complaints, the politicians will also finally get the message that DC taxpayers don't have an unlimited reservoir of patience with being gouged. “Taxation without representation” would be an awfully empty slogan if we protested only unrepresentative federal taxation, but meekly acquiesced in our own local government's predatory ways. So, mon amies, storm the Bastille, throw the tea into the harbor, and file that appeal. It's such a mannerly and easy rebellion that there's no excuse not to take up arms.

Gary Imhoff 


Property Tax Protest

As a result of writing in themail, I was contacted by WTOP reporter Amy Morris. She is doing a story about property tax assessments in the metropolitan area. After the interview was concluded, she told me only 1,000 people appealed their property taxes last year. I was one of them. I plan to appeal again this year.

Everyone should appeal their assessment. Right now the city just hears grumbling, a few calls to Councilmen, maybe an angry letter. If everyone took the effort to go to the library to pick up an appeal form and request a hearing, the city would get the message. It is interesting to note that last year the appeal form came with the proposed assessment. This year I had to go out of my way to pick it up.

The city can do several things to increase revenues without destroying people's budgets. It can cap effective increases to 5-7 percent a year. It could allow you to deduct your property taxes from your income when you are computing DC income taxes. It could do both. Take the time to appeal. Make the city work for the extra money. Send a strong, loud message that you do not accept such drastic increases in your property taxes.


Massive Problems with Property Assessment Process
Ann Loikow, 

FYI, I sent the following E-mail to the Council regarding problems with the assessment process: I know many of your constituents are concerned about assessments. I thought you might find Peter Craig's analysis (from the Cleveland Park E-group) of the assessment issue in Cleveland Park of interest. Of critical importance is that the assessment methodology used this year may be very flawed and does not really represent market value. I would urge the Council to investigate the accuracy and equity of assessment process itself, not just spread out the higher taxes that result from the vastly increased assessments over time.

You should also be aware that this year the Office of Tax and Revenue is making it extremely difficult to file an appeal. Unlike previous years, no appeal form was included with the notice of assessment. You have to try to call to get one (trying to get through on the phone number given with the assessment notice is also difficult). This year, for the first time, the assessed value of the land and the improvements are not broken out. In addition, you have to file all your evidence of why the assessment is faulty with the appeal and all this has to be done by April 1! Also, the assessment books are not available at the public libraries. You have to go down to 941 North Capitol Street, NE during business hours to see them and gather information for your appeal. Supposedly, some information is available online, but in two years I have never been able to access it. I click on the assessment button and get sent back to the Office's home page. In addition, when I have had a librarian try to access it, I could only get information one lot at a time. In order to get the information needed to do an appeal (i.e., look at the assessment data for an entire neighborhood and specifically on the properties sold during the year), one would have to spend an inordinate amount of time (longer than we have to put together our appeals).

Bottom line, the process is very, very broken and the citizens of DC are being taken advantage of. Please help us solve the fundamental problems: (1) correcting the accuracy of assessments and (2) making the appeal process actually one citizens can use. Citizens all over the District urgently need your help (we only have two weeks until April 1).


Property Tax Assessments
Dave De Seve, 

With regard to property tax assessments, I am curious as to why public officials, most prominently the Mayor, have over the last couple of weeks described how they are going to fund new spending without mentioning the fact that across the board they will increase city revenues significantly through these assessments. My assessment defies logic. It doubled in three years. One of the cardinal rules of real estate is that real property does not depreciate, yet they depreciated my property while extraordinarily appreciating the improvement (the structure on the property), even though I have invested very little, because it was not needed, in improvement. Is this an attempt to pad the tax rolls, while hoping that the taxpayers remain silent as usual?


View from 2,000 Miles Away
Jean Lawrence, 

I moved to Phoenix almost six years ago and bought a 3-bedroom house. My mortgage, taxes, and insurance are $734 a month, about what I was paying for a one-bedroom on Connecticut Avenue. I have been back once and peeked into the lobby of my old building and the walls had not been painted or an atom altered in all those years. A friend recently returned to DC from Fort Lauderdale and said everything looks older and her old one-bedroom on upper Connecticut now commands $1200 a month. I couldn't afford DC anymore, even if I wanted to move back. Yet, I miss my friends (or, as I so snottily say, "I miss smart people."). We get news of the old homestead, though — Marion Barry running again, open-arms welcome for that famous rapist Mike Tyson, all the chronic complaints about services on this list. I guess it's true -- you can't go home again. And may not even want to.


Oh Deer . . . or, Deer Me!
Stan Wellborn, 

Last weekend, my neighbor woke up to look out her window and see six deer standing in her back yard, munching away on her shrubs and tree buds. This was not the first time we have seen deer on our Chevy Chase, DC, block, but this was the first time we had seen a herd. My neighbor's dog went out on her back porch and barked at the deer, which calmly jumped back over her fence and stood watching from the alley.

Deer droppings are an increasingly common sight in our neighborhood, and dead deer that have been hit by vehicles on Military Road, particularly between 16th and Oregon NW, are also not uncommon. These large animals, which breed in Rock Creek Park, are becoming fairly bold in their behavior, and can create health problems from ticks as well as traffic hazards. And, they decimate flower and vegetable gardens.

Is anyone responsible for dealing with this growing urban nuisance? I'm not suggesting an eradication program, but is there a city or Park Service agency that could provide information about keeping them confined to their natural habitat?


Movies for the Deaf
Bruce Monblatt, 

Although the Foundry was a very uncomfortable theater to watch a movie in, it was the only movie house in the District that regularly showed open-captioned films. This allowed deaf and other hearing-impaired people to see relatively first run movies before they reached video or cable. There is a theater in Springfield Mall that shows open-captioned films and one in Ballston that shows them occasionally, but now the District doesn't have any. I hope that a theater owner reaches into this void and regularly starts showing films for this audience.


McKinley Tech
Ed T. Barron, 

McKinley High School will reopen in the next year or two as a technical magnet high school. It remains to be seen just how well this high school will work, or not work. If the new McKinley is modeled after the very successful Brooklyn Technical High School in New York, or other similar magnet schools, it will require students to pass a difficult entrance exam to gain entry. If, as may well be expected in DC, anybody can gain entrance, then this school will be just like many other schools in the District. It will never turn out more than just a few exceptional graduates.


The Federal Enclave/Interest (National Capital Service Area)
Mark David Richards, Dupont East, 

Unless something has changed since 1974, the Botanical Gardens is entirely on DC owned land (census tract and square 74.1-P239). If DC hasn't already, maybe it can trade it for something that might lower our rapidly rising property taxes. The Botanical Gardens is also within the National Capital Service Area (NCSA). I discovered this trivia in trying to find out how big the NCSA is: of DC's 63 square miles, how many miles are (or would be) in the “Home Rule” area and how many are in the “NCSA/Federal Enclave” area? I found no quick answer (it is amazing how much effort is involved in finding the answer to some questions). So I queried members of H-Net Network on History of the District of Columbia [H-DC@H-NET.MSU.EDU]. Thanks to leads from H-Net members and friends, a very responsive National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), a DC MLKJr Library visit, and some luck, I can tell you the answer to this burning question. The NCSA is 11.55 square miles, or 18.3 percent of DC. This is the likely area that would remain Washington, DC, the seat of government, if Congress made the remaining 81.7 percent of DC a state (as described by Sam Smith in 1970) or if DC, Maryland, and Congress agreed on a merger of DC and Maryland.

The whole of DC is under the exclusive legislation of Congress, in all cases whatsoever, but Congress has already identified a subarea in DC that is of primary federal interest where they could delegate power for certain purposes related to security and service provision, called the NCSA. It was created in DC's Home Rule Charter (you can read the legislation in the DC Code at,  Search for §1-207.39. National Capital Service Area.) The legislation gave the President authority to map the area and to place it under a Director, reporting to the President. The Director would be responsible for “adequate police and fire protection, maintenance of streets and highways, and sanitation services,” and would have authority to ask the President to call on the National Guard. President Gerald R. Ford issued Order 11815 delegating to the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) the function of establishing the metes and bounds of the NCSA on October 23, 1974. The last map the NCPC found when I checked yesterday was 1987. Based on the 1987 map, the NCSA is 11.55 square miles; it comprises less than one-fifth of DC's 63 square miles, or 18.3 percent of the total area. Based on 1974 data supplied by NCPC to the 93rd Congress, the NCSA land area is mostly tax exempt: 97.4 percent federally owned; 1 percent (27.6 acres) DC owned; 1.3 percent is taxable. The area was apparently divided into two sectors, military and nonmilitary. The total area that does not include military bases is 6,752 acres and is 53 percent water and 47 percent land. It had virtually no civilian population in the 1970 census, but if people live there now, the law provides that they continue to have voting rights in DC. The area that includes Fort Lesley McNair, the Washington Navy Yard, the Anacostia Naval Annex, the United States Naval Station, Bolling Air Force Base, and the Naval Research Laboratory is 3,198 acres, and has a significant military population. The NCPC said they are going to digitize the NCSA map on their Geographic Information System (GIS). I assume all this information would be updated.

After the 93rd Congress during its 2nd Session delegated its powers to a DC Home Rule government on Christmas Eve (December 24, 1973), it published all the legislative records on December 31, 1974 (publishing records is a habit that is good news). The Honorable Charles C. Diggs, Jr., was Chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia in the House — a good friend to DC who had at last taken the place of that notorious anti-Home Rule southern segregationist. The Chairman requested comment on the Home Rule bill from federal bodies. J. Carter Brown, Chairman of the Commission of Fine Arts, said the Commission had no objections to an NCSA because it was an administrative device that would not alter the Commission's operation. L. Niederlehner, Acting General Counsel of the Department of Defense, said DOD had no objection to the NCSA. Georgetown DC Project on Community Legal Assistance said, “The central issue is whether the creation of a Federal enclave with a Federal Administrator can turn a delegation into an abdication so that Congress cannot exercise 'exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever, at any time over the remaining District of Columbia that is outside the Federal scheme.'” (That question was apparently settled...) The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) said they were concerned that the NCSA included many areas managed by the National Park Service. DOI questioned how different authorities would relate and said there would be questions of jurisdiction. The General Services Administration (GSA) said, “The bill is not clear as to what is to be accomplished by this section and how it is to be effected.” It worried that a serious jurisdictional problem would arise, “for example, if this section is interpreted to place in the Director any authority or control over GSA's guards and special policemen.” The DC government made four suggestions, one of which was to remove the District Building and the parking area nearby from the NCSA!


Colbert King Is Wrong
Thomas Smith, 

The Colbert King article about being safer in Afghanstan then in DC is a outrage. First of all, I contend that the great majority of citizens who are injured or killed are done in by some one of their peer group. This includes family murders, gambling related murder, romantic trio murders, and drug murders. It is clear to me that most citizens don't have most of these groups as peers (watch out for those family members!) and have very little to fear in that respect. Now it is true that sometimes innocent persons are hurt or even killed by accident, and the full weight of the law should be imposed on the guilty party(s) but this is not the majority of our killing statistics. In fact the average citizen has a better chance of dying in a auto accident than being shot by someone (other than a relative!)

I have lived in lots of neighborhoods where the crime rate is allegedly high, but this term “high crime rate” includes everything from first degree homicide to stolen lawn ornaments to victimless commercial sex. Most of what this “crime rate” reflects is poverty and oppression and is not a threat to most citizens' life and limb. Now — for those folks that are involved in violence generating activities — gambling and drugs and love triangles — there is most definitely a threat to life and limb, but mostly to those involved. Haven't you noticed that there is hardly any outcry from the remaining family members? Why? Could it be that they realize that these relatives are involved in this dangerous kind of thing and it is the cost of this kind of action?

I say let's get real and remove the real source of most of the violence, drug prohibition. To start with, put as much money and effort into education and job training and employment as is put into the drug war, and most of the problem disappears. The other part of the problem is people like Colbert King who misrepresent the truth about our people/city and its condition and why it is in this condition. To Colbert King I say “stop hating on my city.”


Good News in NW
Dawn Dickerson, 

You are absolutely right that it's time to start sharing some good news. As a matter of fact, I am tardy with a thank you letter to the DC Water and Sewer Authority for their quick response to my request to have my water meter pushed in the ground. I purchased my home on Q street, NW, eight years ago and tried incessantly to get the Water and Sewer Department to explain to me why I had a water meter that sat almost a foot above ground. Not only was that a safety hazard, it was unsightly as well. Well, on the 8th of March I went to the Department's web site and sent an E-mail requesting that my meter be serviced, and by the 12th of March two workers from the Department were on the front of my lawn putting that meter in the ground. It was amazing!

The city is making improvements, and we're not acknowledging what is working well. I find myself quick to lodge complaints and not as diligent with saying thank you when something goes right!


Good Things in the Neighborhood
Wendy Stengel, 

This has nothing to do with the political nature of our town, but I thought I'd share, anyway. I'm the proud new owner of a pup, and walking around my Glover Park neighborhood with him, I've met so many more of my neighbors . . . the majority incredibly friendly and nice. It's just nice to remember that the people you pass on a walk from point A to point B have wonderful little stories to share, and smiles to project.


High Quality Public Education
Andrea Carlson, 

You asked for good news. In the face of headlines about $80 million deficits and spending freezes, I thought it was worth passing along one example of some positive news about public education in DC. Capital City Public Charter School is a school that works. Located in Columbia Heights, Capital City draws 157 children from across the city, representing a range of ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. This model program has been awarded a US Department of Education grant for its innovative approach to comprehensive school reform. Academic performance shows significant improvement according to standardized tests, portfolios, and other assessments. The school gets high marks for management and operations. Capital City offers a clean, safe, and supportive learning environment and a hands-on, project-based approach to education that children find engaging and rewarding. The principal and teachers are energetic, highly trained and skilled, creative and caring. Parent involvement is central. I have two children who attend the school and can't rave about it enough. Let me know if you're interested in getting more information. The school would like to build its volunteer base and develop additional links with businesses, foundations, and other organizations.


Police Substation
Jim Graham, 

You have asked for good news on the public safety front. I hope you saw today's [Monday's] Washington Post Metro section, where it is reported that the old 10th Precinct Police Station will be used to headquarter all the 4th District PSAs in Ward One (410, 411, 412, 413 and 414) []. This will bring about 90 officers to 750 Park Road from the 6000 block of Georgia on permanent assignment. This project (on which I have been working for a year) is now in the renovation, Parks and Rec having been moved out. We should have it fully operational in the summer. That's good news, right?


Quarters for DC and U.S. Territories, Too!
Mark Richards, 

Here's more good news. Adding quarters for DC and the U.S. Territories will profit the federal government! Can anyone update us on the status of the effort to extend the state quarter program to DC and the Territories? Without including DC and the Territories, the state quarter program is expected to bring in between $5 to $10 billion to the U.S. Treasury over ten years. My father explained how this works to me. It costs 4 cents to make a quarter, and the Federal Reserve sells them to banks for 25 cents. For each one that is "collected" and taken out of circulation, the government makes a 21-cent profit. For a 2000 hearing on this topic by the Subcommittee on Domestic and International Monetary Policy, Committee on Banking and Financial Services, see I'm wondering if the DC government shouldn't consider issuing its own “special DC” coin to sell to tourists and collectors.



Building Museum Program on DC Public Library
Patricia Pasqual, 

As part of its DC builds series, the National Building Museum is sponsoring a program with the District of Columbia Public Library at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, on Tuesday, March 26, from 6:30-8:00 p.m. DCPL is planning either to renovate the Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library or to rebuild it on a new site. It is also embarking on an ambitious plan to renovate its branches. The program will feature presentations by the Library's building consultant and the Office of Planning. Part of the presentation will include slides showing several new central libraries in other urban areas. Registration is required. $10 Museum and DCPL members; $15 nonmembers.


Washingtoniana Division/MLK Slide Lectures
Jerry A. McCoy, 

The following illustrated slide lectures will be held in the program room of the Washingtoniana Division, Room #307, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. All lectures are scheduled from noon-1:00 p.m. We hope to see you there! Monday, March 25: “A Treasure Found: The Rediscovered Novels of E.D.E.N. Southworth,” Marilyn L. Barth, 19th-century publishing history researcher and Program Coordinator of the Rare Books and Special Collections at The Catholic University of America, will present a lecture on the life and works of Georgetown authoress E.D.E.N. Southworth. Monday, April 22: “More DC in 3-D: Past and Present,” James Roy will present historic stereo card photos of Washington personalities and places. 3-D glasses will be provided. Monday, May 20, “Vintage DC Postcards: Then and Now,” Jerry A. McCoy, Washingtoniana Division and Peabody Room librarian, in honor of National Postcard Week (May 5-11), will present a selection of vintage Washington, DC, postcards depicting establishments located in the MLK Library neighborhood with views of what occupies the sites today.


Artists/Crafters Sought for Glover Park Day
Judie Guy, 

If you're an accomplished artist/crafter looking for a great market for your work, complete an application now to participate in the 13th Annual Glover Park Day, which will be held Saturday, June 1, on the grounds of Guy Mason Recreation Center at Calvert Street and Wisconsin Avenue, NW. We get a great turnout every year from all across the city. We usually have 20 to 30 artists/crafters, including many who come back year after year, but we can accommodate more. It's a great day with three or four diverse bands, prize drawings, food from award winning neighborhood restaurants, and activities for the kids, as well as arts/crafts exhibits/sales. Space (about 10' x 10') is just $35. Contact Judie Guy at for an application or more information.


Help Stoddert School and Rec Center
Cathy Fiorillo, 

Want to generate business and help the DCPS and a recreation center at the same time? Stoddert Elementary School and the Friends of Glover Park have teamed up to provide as many opportunities as possible for our children and the community. On April 27, the school and Friends of Glover Park are holding the Big Chili Auction at Fannie Mae from 7-10 p.m. Would you like to attend? Would you like to advertise in the Big Chili catalog which will reach at least 250 families from the DC area? Send an E-mail to She'll follow up with how you can advertise and/or get you on the invitation list.


WASA Public Meeting
Libby Lawson, 

The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) will conduct two community meetings to discuss proposed changes in the rate structure, a new metering fee and a District right-of-way occupancy fee. The proposed changes and rulemaking are posted on WASA’s web site ( and published in the March 8 edition of the DC Register. WASA’s management will also bring citizens up-to-date on the Capital Improvement Program, Drinking Water Quality, Customer Service Improvements and the new Automatic Meter Reading and Replacement Program.

WASA’s Board of Directors and management welcome your comments and encourage you to attend one of these meetings: Wednesday, March 27, at the Charles Sumner School, 17th and M Streets, NW, 6:30-8:30 p.m., and Thursday, March 28, at Hadley Memorial Hospital, 4601 Martin Luther King, Jr. Ave., SW, First Floor Community Room (Cafeteria), 6:30-8:30 p.m. The WASA Board of Directors will also conduct a formal Public Hearing on these proposed changes next month, on Thursday, April 25, 6:30 p.m., at the Washington Convention Center, 900 9th Street, NW, Room 29. For more information, please call our Public Affairs Office at 787-2200 or visit our web site at


Media Democracy Teach-In
Alan Bushnell, 

Over the next 6 months, almost every FCC rule protecting the public from further media consolidation is up for review. The FCC is losing courts cases that it may not bother to appeal. Tauzin-Dingel passed the House. Cable companies providing broadband Internet no longer have to open their monopoly-owned networks. The future of the media in this country is teetering on the verge of complete control by a few powerful multinational corporations. This represents a very ugly combination of trends.

In conjunction with Alliance for Community Media's Media Democracy Week grassroots groups have planned a teach-in to bring about broader awareness of the corporate control of media and how to build a grass roots media that will serve local communities and the public interest. The teach-in will be held on Saturday, March 23 at 12:00 p.m. at the Kay Spiritual Life Center, American University, DC. For more info, see



Half-Time Membership Database Coordinator
Shari Miles, 

Membership database coordinator for small nonprofit office at the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues. Requires excellent communication and computer skills; knowledge of FileMaker Pro. Able to work independently and prioritize tasks. Must be reliable and well-organized. Immediate opening, permanent position, 20 hrs/week, salary $13,000 - 17,000 plus benefits. Submit resume ASAP to: SPSSI, Fax: 223-5555; E-mail: Web: No phone calls.



AOL E-Mail Pager for Sale, Make Offer
Randy Hatcher, 

AOL E-mail pager for sale, almost new and connected. Pickup your AOL E-mail messages anywhere in the world. E-mail offer to



Discussion Group Hints
Vivian Henderson, 

In view of the 9/11 disaster, my husband and I are forming a discussion group of people from different countries, to gather and discuss their perspective of the U.S. We are African Americans; so far we have approached people from Africa, Iran, and the West Indies, and will reach out to others. The purpose is to get to know each other better and try to understand our differences or imaginary differences. These will be monthly casual meetings with snacks, and thick skins are required. Although I think of DC as an international city, many people have no personal contact with people from other countries. Has anyone out there who has formed such a group give us some helpful tips? If so, we welcome all positive suggestions.


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