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March 31, 2002

The Mayor Knew Everything from the Start

Dear Government Watchers:

In the Watergate scandal, Sen. Howard Baker asked the famous big questions, “What did the President know, and when did he know it?” The Inspector General's report on Mayor Williams's fundraising scandal gives enough information to answer both of these questions confidently: the Mayor knew everything about the schemes, and he knew it as it happened. The public wasn't supposed to know this. The Inspector General released to the public only a heavily censored and scrubbed version of the executive summary of the report (at This version gives the Mayor every benefit of the doubt in every respect, implying that the evidence is contradictory and inconclusive. It ignores the preponderance of the evidence developed in the full report, and in doing so it becomes the latest link in a long chain of cover-ups.

But the private version of the report, which the IG didn't want the public to see, is also now available online (at, and the public can judge at least some of the evidence for itself. Was the Mayor really ignorant of many major activities undertaken by his chief aides, or was he regularly briefed on them? Several workers in the EOM witnessed the briefings, and only the Mayor and Dr. Abdusalam Omer claim they were never told. Were the events funded by the schemes intended to benefit the public? Only Mayor Williams claims they were, but in fact only politically influential or wealthy people and the Mayor's own staff, were invited to most of the events. Were there cases in which the fundraising amounted to quid pro quo payoffs? The report claims not, but presents overwhelming evidence that the Church Association for Community Service let itself be used as a conduit for underground fundraising in exchange for the Mayor's assistance in getting a HUD contract. Most importantly, the report demonstrates case after case in which the Mayor's office raised money in ways that circumvented public reporting, keeping the amounts raised and the donors hidden from the public. The IG tries to characterize this as an unfortunate byproduct of the fundraising methods used, but the massive evidence presented in numerous cases proves just the opposite — deceiving the public and keeping us in the dark was the very purpose

It is time for Mayor Williams and all citizens to review “The Williams Pledge,” signed by then-candidate for Mayor Anthony Williams on October 19, 1998, in which he said, “The government of the District of Columbia will become a model of integrity, accountability, openness, and the availability of information. Government officials are public servants, doing the public's business. That business should be done honestly, fairly, in public, and all our actions and decisions should be open to public scrutiny” ( Those were welcome words then; it's a shame that they were nothing but campaign rhetoric.

Gary Imhoff, 
Dorothy Brizill, 


OTR Assessment Response
Herbert Huff, Office of the Chief Financial Officer, 

In response to recent E-mails on OTR's Real Property Assessment for FY 2003, I want to share the following: the most recent FY 2003 real property assessment indicates large increases in some neighborhoods. This is because real property in the District of Columbia is in one of the strongest real estate markets in more than a decade. Some property owners and elected officials have expressed concern regarding these increases and the assessment process. Most importantly, property owners are concerned about the potential increase in property tax.

The property tax, however, is a product of the real property assessment and the real property tax rate. The requirement of the Constitution and DC law is for the assessor to appraise real property uniformly at market value. The law also requires elected government officials to set the property tax rate and maintain a balanced budget. The Office of Tax and Revenue has made many improvements in the real property tax administration over the last four years. Our goal has been to assess real estate uniformly and to administer tax laws fairly. During this time, we improved the assessment appeal process by adding an informal level of review with the assessor. We improved the content and the amount of real property information available to the public. This is so that each property owner can assure that their assessment is uniform with similar properties and that it represents market value as compared to recent sales of similar properties in their area. To this end, we have placed the assessment roll, property characteristics, and real property sales information on the Internet ( — taxpayer services - search real property database). Property owners may view the assessments, property data, and sales of other similar properties at this site. This site may be also accessed at all city libraries and at all OTR offices.

While many of the property owners indicate that their property value reflects the market in their area, they do not like the fact that the assessment has increased. It is the reality of a strong market. It is also important to remember that the physical characteristics of the property do not often change over time and that most properties receive normal maintenance. Should a property owner disagree with the assessed value of the property or do not agree with our current information, we encourage them to file an appeal.

Filing an appeal involves a three level appeal process. The first level is an informal meeting with the assessor where the property owner can share information about the property and the assessor can explain the valuation. As stated on the assessment notice and as required by law, all assessment appeals must be filed by April 1st. This appeal process and appeal filing requirements are similar to those in all surrounding jurisdictions. An appeal may be filed by simply sending a letter stating that you are requesting an assessment appeal hearing and identifying the property by address, square and lot. An appeal form is also provided at the web site or at any city library or fire station. The appeal should be mailed to The Real Property Tax Administration - Appeals Section, PO Box 176, Washington DC 20044 and be postmarked by April 1, 2002.

Some have charged that the Office of Tax and Revenue has not completed an accurate mass appraisal or that the requirements of the constitution and laws of the District of Columbia have not been met. Additionally, some have charged that OTR is withholding property data or market information. I can assure you that this is not the case. The real property assessment division of the Office of Tax and Revenue has performed the real property assessment function in conformance with acceptable methods and techniques for mass appraisal according to the Standards of the International Association of Assessing Officers and the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice. Exterior property inspections and neighborhood inspections have been made. Property-specific mass appraisal techniques have been used. The requirements of the constitution and laws of the District of Columbia have been met. Also, OTR has performed the assessment function in a manner consistent with those of most all other jurisdictions in the country.

More information is provided to District property owners about real property and the assessment of real property than at any other time in the past. As stated, if a property owner feels a property valuation is not correct, we encourage an appeal. However, should a property owner agree that the property valuation is accurate and uniform, then there would be no need to file an appeal. OTR's assessment operations are reviewed and measured by national performance standards. The most recent assessment of real estate has improved both the level of assessment to market value and the uniformity of assessments in the District, as required by law. This is shown by mass appraisal performance standards that we employ. This has also been confirmed by an outside independent review of our assessment operation. While we have made significant improvements in the OTR assessment administration, we continue to strive toward the improvement of the quality of our data and overall assessment operations.


St. Coletta’s (Continuing)
Jim Myers, 

Examination of the most recent IRS Form 990 for St. Coletta of Greater Washington may help explain why a done-deal air hung over the recent planning process for the land around the former DC General Hospital. The 990 shows that the Alexandria-based St. Coletta operates in the ways that fast-growing 501(c)(3) institutions do these days, which can include hiring costly lobbyists or dabbling in Enron stock.

St. Coletta did both in fiscal year 2000-2001. Meanwhile, the school billed $5.6 million for services, presumably most to the DC government. The Enron stock is a minor curiosity. The eye-opener is St. Coletta's lobbying expenses: the Alexandria-based school for handicapped children and adults spent $110,886 for “long-range planning” with Cassidy & Associates, Washington-based lobbyists who include the governments of China and Saudi Arabia among their big-time clients. The payoff for St. Coletta seemed to come in congressional earmarks: “$997,800 in a congressional appropriation to the DC government . . . and . . . a congressional appropriation to the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the amount of $997,800 to be expended in the construction of a facility in the District of Columbia.”

But maybe the lobbyists had something to do with St. Coletta's landing the rights to free DC General land, too. Who knows? St. Coletta surely would say it does what it must on behalf of needy clients, and it looks like hiring lobbyists is a good deal (except to fans of open government). As for the land around DC General, it begins to appear that only applicants with $110,000 lobbyists need to apply.


Home Depot Lite
Ed T. Barron, 

Interesting to note in Thursday's Post the article about Home Depot opening an inner city version of their home supply store. A couple of years ago Home Depot was seriously considering opening a store in the former Hechingers/Sears location in Tenleytown. They held a large meet and greet event in the old Hechingers to describe their plans and to hear of any concerns from the local neighbors. The Home Depot officials got more than an earful and, when understanding just what "“istorical Preservation Status” meant, they quickly backed out.

I had previously written to the President of the Home Depot organization describing just how a hybrid inner city store could be created in the Hechingers space with almost all of the offerings of their very large stores. My letter was unanswered but I'd bet a bundle that the configuration/inventory suggestions I made will make their appearance in the two new Home Depot inner city stores in Brooklyn and Staten Island in New York City.


Marion Barry and Racism
John Henry Wheeler, 

I think that Arthur Jackson, Jr., is wrong in raising race as an issue with Marion Barry. However, that seems to be Barry's only campaign issue. I believe Washington is beyond that. While I agree with most of what Rob Eberhardt says about Barry, I disagree that “Barry is who he's always been.” I think Barry was once a good mayor. He, like may entrenched politicians, changed. Probably an example of the axiom, “power corrupts.” Also I don't think he's a racist, but agree that he's a race baiter.


The 64KG Questions
Willie Schatz, 

I. What substance does Marion Barry most abuse? a) Women, b) Drugs, c) The Last Colony, d) The inhabitants thereof, e) Himself, f) All of the above

II. To what is Marion Barry most addicted? a) Politics, b) Drugs, c) Women, d) Sex, d) The limelight, e) His name in the paper.

III. What should the political prisoners of the Last Colony do about him? a) Send him up the Lazy River, b) Drop him somewhere in the swamps of Jersey, c) Buy him a one-way ticket to Tierra del Fuego, d) So badly kick his ass in the “election” that he gets the message: Get Over It.


East of the River Voters Will Not Allow Marion Barry to Be Politically Lynched
Arthur H. Jackson Jr., 

An individual identifying himself or herself, as a national Democratic official told the Washington Times (Thursday, March 26) that Marion Barry is the Democratic Party's David Duke, referring to the one time Ku Klux Klan Republican who ran for state office in Louisiana. As Ward 8 Democratic State Committeeman, representing Democrats in Ward 8 such Marion Barry, I resent comparing our former Mayor to racist bigots like David Duke. And any Democratic official whom does not recognize what African American leaders like Mayor Barry have done to help Democrats win in crucial races, not only in the Washington-Baltimore region but throughout the world, needs to join another party.

And Mayor William's statement that “Marion Barry should seek help” reflects his view that the former Mayor is guilty, before he's heard both sides of the story. And only adds to those racists and extremists who believe African Americans should not be in power in the nation's capital. Mayor Williams should apologize to his former employer. In Wards 7 and 8, we are going to exercise our political strength this fall, and register a record number of voters, and elect an At-Large City Councilmember to stop the pushing out of longtime residents of Anacostia, Congress Heights, and other areas of our city.

In 1998, our voters stayed home. This election is about empowering our communities to address alcohol and drug abuse, teen pregnancy, crime, police-community relations, poor services for our senior citizens and cheating our children of quality education by not fully funding our publics schools. Now the racist media and others are attacking Marion Barry, without hearing both sides of this story. Is it because if Marion Barry, were mayor DC's poor and low income people would still have DC General Hospital? Is it because Marion Barry would not have allowed this city to spend millions on advertising nationwide to attract wealthy and affluent non-African Americans to Washington, without first protecting the present residents of our city? This election will not be about Black and White, it will be about the “haves” and the “have nots.” And I assure every resident in this city and every media outlet, while people in this city have mixed views of this incident, we will not allow the racist Washington Post or any government setup to tell us who to support and who to vote for.

[This will be the last round on this subject until there are further developments. — Gary Imhoff]


Incoming and Outgoing Incentives
Ed T. Barron,

In my previous posting about allocating the newly proposed teachers' raise budget to offering very high salaries to incoming new teachers, I'm following up with some additional suggestions to improve the breed of teachers in our public schools. First, we must attract new highly qualified teachers. This can be done in several ways. Higher salaries than surrounding counties in MD and VA are a must. In addition, on the incoming side, the District could offer signing bonuses, pay moving expenses for those relocating from outside the District, and/or pay closing costs for those who would buy a home in the District.

On the outgoing side it is essential to get rid of the dead wood. There need to be some incentives to rid the District schools of those who burned out many years ago but hang on to bleed the school budget dry with their high, unjustified, salaries. Early retirement incentives worked well in the small school district in New York where I served for six years on the school board. These incentives including adding some years onto the service of those who would take early retirement which increased their pensions. In addition there were up front payments made to those leaving early. The result was the elimination of a very large percentage of the burned out, and ineffective, teachers . This made room for hiring a large number of highly qualified new teachers who were well down on the salary scale. The situation on Long Island was greatly different from the situation here in the Washington area. The supply of highly qualified teachers greatly exceeded the demand. Here in DC we must create a new paradigm by offering very high starting salaries that will dramatically open up the supply of highly qualified teachers and encourage career changes in those who really would like to teach.


Bigger and Better Spam
Bob Summersgill, 

The spam that I received recently had me laughing for quite awhile: “Bob, get bigger, firmer breasts . . . the natural way!”


You Are a Market Niche
John Whiteside, john at logancircle dot net

1. Spam: For those who are less tolerant than Gary, you can take a small step against spam by using Spam Cop ( They have a free service that lets you submit spam to them. They analyze the message headers to determine where it came from and what web site it's trying to push you to, and then files abuse reports with the Internet providers the spammer is using. It's a little work, and there's no guarantee of anything happening, but one friend was responsible for getting a spammer's accounts shut down using the service. Also, one of the ways spammers collect E-mail addresses is with software that combs web sites for E-mail addresses and adds them to the lists. Which means that when an issue of themail is put on the DCWatch site with your message in it, your address is there for spammers to collect. Be warned.

2. Sprint phones: it's possible that Sprint was not behind this. It wouldn't be hard to figure out which telephone exchanges are wireless exchanges and start blasting ads to them, so it's possible someone else was behind that annoyance. Although, in marketing circles, one of the hot new topics is the prospect of sending targeted ads to people based on location, so as you pass a McDonalds your phone can ring with an offer to get a quarter off a Big Mac. I'm not sure why some marketers think this would encourage anyone to do anything but turn off their mobile phone, but there you have it.


Spam in the Mail
Bill Adler, 

Spam is more that an annoyance. It's a plague. And I'm furious that our government has done almost nothing to combat spam. A few state laws and a tepid Federal Trade Commission crackdown of pyramid-scheme spam — that's about all we've gotten. Meanwhile, spammers are attacking our cell phones and other wireless devices with junk. Spammers are flooding our in boxes (and our kids' in boxes) with scams and pornography. Spam accounts for between 15 - 25 percent of all E-mail — and is growing. The cost of all this junk E-mail gets passed on to us in the form of higher ISP fees. Spam slows down the delivery of legitimate E-mail. Spam causes people to lose, delete and miss real E-mail. Travelers who retrieve their E-mail at hotels have to pay costly per-minute charges because of junk E-mail. And woe be to anyone who comes back from a week's vacation: Our in-box may be filled with dozens or hundreds of junk E-mails.

It's time for Congress and the FTC to take strong measures against spam. If these kinds of get-rich-quick schemes, pump-and-dump stock scams, quack cures, and pornography were being touted through more "traditional" media, the government would have taken action a long time ago. Meanwhile, for the little good it may do, the Federal Trade Commission is collecting spam: Forward your junk E-mail to Report spam to the sender's ISP by forwarding the junk E-mail to, where is the sender's Internet service provider (  in the case of America Online), along with all the message's headers. For more information on how to deal with spam, visit or the Coalition Against Unsolicited Commercial E-mail at


E-mail to City Council: It’s All Geek to Me
Mark Eckenwiler, eck[HATES SPAM]

In the last issue, John Whiteside said his E-mail to a councilmember bounced as undeliverable with the message “Host not found.” This is typical of a transient DNS (domain name service) failure, and a check today (3/28) confirms that is once again a valid domain. Such things happen to other Internet hosts on occasion, so this is probably not evidence of malice. (Gross stupidity, maybe, and not necessarily by DC government.)

Ironically, and — domains formerly associated with the Office of Tax and Revenue -- have been disabled in the past couple of weeks, apparently deliberately and for good. Still alive is 


City Council E-Mailing
Peter Wolff, 

The council's website and its E-mail system have been having on and off trouble ever since Al Gore invented the Internet! Not only is it a mediocre-looking website, it and its related E-mail component can't be counted upon to be always reliable. It would be nice if the Office of Chief Technology Officer could get it properly functioning for once and for all. (Hope springs eternal!) By the way, councilmembers were, sometime last year, all assigned simpler E-mail addresses that are supposed to be alternates to the more cumbersome assigned, “official” ones found on their pages. For some curious reason, these are not publicized even though they are all trying to use them. What a weird place this is.


Council E-mail Failures

I E-mailed all of the Council Members reminding them to come to the fundraiser held for Pediatric AIDS/HIV Care, Inc. at 450 M Street, NW Jack Evans' came back. So did others. I sent them from my office and may still have them. Kathy Patterson's came back, however her home E-mail did not, so she received hers. Brazil's went through and they put me on their e-mail list. Catania's went through; he read it, sent us money. Fenty's went through. More later today. I don't think they all have E-mail. I know they don't all have web pages.


Regarding Newcomer’s Handbook for Moving to Washington, DC by Mark David Richards
David W. Dragnich, 

Now how did you let this message creep into the news, when it clearly is a pitch to buy a book? It purports to be an evaluation declaring it a winner, with a disclaimer that the author isn't certain of what competing books may have done in the way of updates since his evaluation, which we can only presume took place sometime after the 3rd edition release of book being touted. Furthermore, the evaluation seems to be based on how many items are covered that are mentioned in the Washington Historical Atlas. Using that as a guide, the author claims the winner as covering 14 of 40 elements while quoting two competing books covering only 12. When I went to school, if you got either 12 or 14 out of 40, you weren't considered the sharpest knife in the drawer in either case. Shameless reporting!



One Bedroom English Basement
Dave DeSeve, 

1532 O Street, NW, washer/dryer, AC, full kitchen and full bath. Available immediately. Includes utilities and cable. $1350/month + 1 month deposit. By appointment: 462-7632.



Servathon 2002 — Put Your Body Where Your Heart Is!
Falasha Brown, 

Strengthen your relationships with your coworkers, neighbors, gym buddies, sorors, frat, fellow alumni, fellow churchgoers or other friends by serving as a Team Captain and forming and leading a volunteer team for Greater DC Cares’ Servathon 2002 on Saturday, May 18. Servathon projects benefit metro area community and public service organizations and range from painting charter schools to planting trees in area parks to beautifying public housing facilities. The work you do will have a lasting impact on your community and the pledges you and your team raise will support Greater DC Cares in facilitating more than 100,000 hours of volunteer service throughout the year! Join us on April 3rd and 9th for a training and information session to get everything you need to get started! For more information, check out our web site at or contact Faye Brown at or 289-7378, ext. 131 now.

For the actual event on May 18th, the attendants will meet their teams at their project. The time of the event is 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., which is the actual service project. Post party festivities with free food and free drinks and dancing will be at LuLu's from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m.


Hark! Who Goes There!
Francesca Dixon, 

I'm looking for volunteers to help plan and implement a Civil War Mess Night for my 5th grade class from Mary Church Terrell Elementary School. Last year my 5th graders from a charter school held a similar event at Les Halles complete with speeches, toasts, the parading of the beef, and even a roll throwing battle between rival members of the mess. If you would like to volunteer, please reply via E-mail.


Web Design
Howard Ways, 

Does anyone offer pro bono web page design services for ANCs?



Jewelry Appraisal
Annie McCormick, 

Does anyone know of a reputable jewelry appraisal/buyer? I have several pieces of jewelry I no longer want and wish to sell them.


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