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April 3, 2002

Top Ten Excuses and Alibis

Dear Readers:

We've been awfully hard on Mayor Anthony Williams lately, so we decided to see if we could be helpful to him. Mayor Williams had to cancel his regular weekly press briefing today. We're just guessing, but it may be that he has run out of excuses and alibis for his fundraising scandal. Luckily, other Washington scandals have provided a rich and varied repertoire of stock responses, and we're happy to provide a top ten list that can readily be adapted to respond to any press or public inquiry. 10) Everybody does it. 9) There is no evidence that I benefited personally. 8) I've fired all the people who were responsible for that. 7) Instead of dwelling on the negative, let's look at the good news in the report. 6) That's just old news; let's look to the future. 5) I can't talk about that because it is under investigation. 4) Nobody cares about this, and I can't let myself be distracted from doing the people's business. 3) The District government employees who were responsible were holdovers from the Barry administration. 2) When that was discussed at staff meetings, I was out of the room getting an iced tea. And the ever-popular and memorable excuse number 1) The bitch set me up.

Gary Imhoff, 
Dorothy Brizill, 


I Wouldn’t Believe It If I Didn’t See It
David Pansegrouw, 

On Saturday, March 30, I took my family (wife, two young kids) to the Georgetown Park DMV location to register a car after I first checked the DMV web site to confirm that such service was available at that location. Following is 1) my E-mail to the Mayor after I found that such service was in fact not available at that location, 2) the Mayor's response, and 3) a reply from me.

1) Mr. Mayor, I check the DMV web site this morning and it clearly says vehicle registration is a service offered at the Georgetown location of the DMV. I take my kids to the Georgetown location to register a vehicle. Stand in line about 10 minutes which gets me to a point where there is a sign saying that new registrations are no longer done at this location as of March 11, 2002 (today is March 30, 2002). I try to verify that "new registration" includes transferring plates. Get rather huffy reply from guard that that is what the sign says. It is beyond me why a web site cannot be updated within 3 weeks after the fact. Just wanted to thank you personally for a wasted morning. As far as I am concerned, the web site is lying. I have used this online method in the past to send comments to you and have never received a reply from you. I was however added to some E-mail list of yours that gets me announcements from the “EOM.” Please spare me the propaganda. Please excuse my cynicism, but I am tired of being lied to by my government. If you ever are interested I would be happy to provide you with other examples where DC government has point blank lied to me. Count me among those who fail to see the changes in DC you claim.

2) I apologize for the erroneous information on the website. And this is me personally answering your E-mail. I do think the fact that the website had defective information on a new satellite location — think about it — is progress. As for other failures of the government, I'm not saying it's been fixed but I firmly believe we've been making progress.

3) Thank you for your response to my E-mail but it seems to me one step forward, two steps backward. Is it likely that the DMV web site will be updated to accurately reflect the real services offered at various locations? If so, when? Or is it that what you see is what you get (or don't get as the case may be)? My imagination has trouble stretching far enough to see “defective information” as progress. If this is progress, I am a Luddite. I had plenty of time driving home with no new registration to think about it. My son who at 5 years of age is able to figure some things out wondered why we were going home without getting what we came for; cynicism can start young. In my job, if I create defective information, I receive a reprimand regardless of my progressive intention.


A Freudian Slip?
Ed T. Barron, 

If you watched one of the televised interviews with the Mayor as he reacted to the Inspector General's report on improper fund raising in the Mayor's administration, you would have heard the Mayor respond that he “. . . did not know what the other conspirators knew” about the use of funds that were raised. I'm not sure that the Mayor realized with those words that he had just placed himself right among those that he said were responsible for the illegal solicitation and subsequent use of monies collected from corporations and individuals in the name of legitimate causes. In truth, however, those monies were used to illegally promote the candidacy of the Mayor in his reelection efforts. The Mayor is clearly culpable for actually doing some of the fund raising himself. Let's hope that the Feds will step in and prosecute those who have openly broken the law.


Mayor Proposes Library Budget Cut
Alexander M. Padro, 

Just as the DC Public Library is launching a ten-year effort to renovate or replace all 27 locations in the system with a series of four public meetings this Saturday, Mayor Williams' proposed FY 2003 budget will likely result in the reduction of library hours or even the closing of branches. As a member of the DC Board of Library Trustees appointed by Mayor Williams, I am appalled that year after year this administration proposes reducing the budget of one of the agencies that always “does more with less” and does not exceed its spending authority. Our staff is 50 percent smaller than it was 25 years ago, and we have since added branches and services that didn't exist then (including computer and Internet access). Our ability to purchase new books and other materials has shrunk over the past decade, instead of grown. We spend just $4.56 per capita on books and materials, while Cleveland spends $21.26. Boston spends $10.79, and Columbus $9.98. We're also outspent by the surrounding jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia. This has a marked impact on circulation figures: if we don't have the books people are looking for, they won't be coming to our libraries to check them out.

Our libraries are critical to combating our city's severe illiteracy problem, bridging the Digital Divide, and providing lifelong learning opportunities for all our citizens, especially those citizens of modest means. But the best way to achieve those missions, increasing hours system wide to twelve hours per day, seven days per week, which the library board has stated is our goal, will never be accomplished so long as the mayor continues to provide budgets that do not even cover current personnel and energy costs. We won't be able to add more computers in branches, nor extend the new Homework Help Plus Centers that have now opened in four branches to three additional branches, as planned. Nor will we be able to make a significant dent in the long list of deferred maintenance items that need attention in every branch in the system.

Councilmember Kevin Chavous and his colleagues on the Committee on Education, Libraries, and Recreation, have for the past several years restored funds to the library's budget that were cut by the Williams administration, and the full Council has supported these efforts. Were it not for their action, the DC Public Library would be in even worse shape than it currently is. Our libraries should not continue to be “nickeled and dimed” until the system collapses. If you care about good library service, call, E-mail or write your ward and at large councilmembers and ask them to support an increase in the library budget so that we can continue to build the 21st century library system our city deserves.


Taxation Without Representation: Fruit of an Original Sin
Mark Richards, Dupont East, 

That special time of year is once again approaching. Taxation without representation, however objectionable, is legal. In 1820, the Supreme Court, in Loughborough v. Blake, considered this question: has Congress a right to impose a direct tax on the District of Columbia? Chief Justice Marshall explained the court's opinion. He said the right to tax “extends to all places over which the government extends. . . . Representation is not the foundation of taxation.” The court viewed DC as having “voluntarily relinquished the right of representation, and has adopted the whole body of Congress for its legitimate government.” (Talk about an “original sin”!) Marshall wrote, “Although in theory it might be more congenial to the spirit of our institutions to admit a representative from the district, it may be doubted whether, in fact, its interests would be rendered thereby the more secure; and certainly the constitution does not consider their want of a representative in Congress as exempting it from equal taxation.” See  Nothing in the Constitution seems to forbid DC from protesting its situation or stating the fact from the top of a flagpole.


OTR Puffery
Mark Eckenwiler,

It's splendid that Office of Tax and Revenue's Herbert Huff took note of the discussion here concerning DC's misguided assessment process. Even better, he recognizes that the Constitution requires roughly uniform appraisal of similar properties. Where he slips up, though, is in claiming that “[t]he 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.” [Note: this text is found in the full version of Mr. Huff's comments at] 

To see the untruth of Mr. Huff's claim, one need only amble over to OTR's own Feb. 13, 2002, Assessment Ratio Survey Report, found at As that document makes clear, one of the key measures of proper assessment is the “coefficient of dispersion” (COD): that is, the degree of “spread” overall between assessed values and sale prices. (To oversimplify a bit, think of the COD as the width of the bell curve that shows how well assessed values match up with sale prices. A wide, flat curve has a high COD, meaning poor assessment practices.) As OTR's own report says (at Table 1), the IAAO standard for urban areas like, say, Capitol Hill is a COD of 15.0 or less. (OTR's report tries to fudge this by suggesting that the COD “should typically be 20 percent or less,” ignoring the fact that such wide variations are (per Table 1) acceptable only in rural areas.) But as Table 3 makes clear, several DC neighborhoods have absurdly high COD's. For example, Old City #1 (north Capitol Hill) has a COD of 25. And that enormous variation in the old assessments was not cured in the proposed 2003 figures; rather, OTR applied an across-the-board increase of 56.5 percent, with no apparent adjustment to correct long-standing inequities in assessments of similar properties.

In short, OTR hasn't met the national standards it claims to have satisfied, and remains in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires “the seasonable attainment of a rough equality in tax treatment of similarly situated property owners.” Allegheny Pittsburgh Coal v. Webster County, 488 U.S. 336 (1989), available at


Spams and Congress
Harold Goldstein, 

I hear the frustrations of everyone whenever the word spam is uttered. I probably get more spams than anyone on this list and am as frustrated as any, but it is folly to think that we can legislate it from existence. It is not our Internet to legislate and we cannot police it. And even if we had the legal right to it would be impossible.

Good software can take care of 80 percent of the problem. We don't have good anti-spam software yet, but to get a glimpse of what may be possible soon look at, horrors of horrors, Yahoo mail. Although Yahoo mail accounts receive incredible volumes of spam, Yahoo has one of the best spam filters around, eliminating some 75 percent of spam without user interaction. I asked them if they sell their filter separately but they do not. None of the programs I have seen can do this; all require that you create most of your own filters, and that is more work than it is worth. A program that has the key filters built in, has intelligence to understand spam construction, and can create new rules as spam evolves is a realistic expectation.

The technology Yahoo mail uses is called Spamguard, and you can read about it at Apparently your ISP must be a client of quicknet to use their filter, so bug your ISP about this technology or bug these people to release it to the general public. So bombard Yahoo for demands that it release its spam filter, don't buy the crap spam filters presently available, but complain about their ineffectiveness. Complain to the FTC too, but that is pretty much a waste of time as is complaining to the spammer.


E-Mail Spam
Jean Lawrence, 

I just learned that if you are on a Yahoo listserve, Yahoo changed all the Marketing Preferences from No to Yes. This means any and all can spam you. You need to access your account, find “Change Marketing Preferences,” and change them back!


Reviewing the Guidebooks
Mark David Richards, 

I am not a reporter, though I contribute regularly to themail. Shameless . . . hmmm, sometimes. My evaluation of the Newcomer's Handbook for Moving to Washington, DC was prompted when I received notice from the author that a new edition had been released. My content analysis of tourist guidebooks in 2000 ( narrowly focused on 40 facts about DC's sociopolitical status — 40 selective facts not derived from the Washington Historical Atlas but from many DC civic activists. The method is explained in the full report posted with my message. I set a very high bar (as a baseline measure), and most guidebooks scored very low. You are correct in noting that 12 of 40 isn't an impressive score, but that was the best score of 26 guidebooks I examined in 2000. So, in fact, a 14 of 40 is “among the sharpest knives in the drawer,” but the sharpest knives are not so sharp. Although the Newcomer's Handbook doesn't cover DC's sociopolitical status as much as I would like, the publisher and author made a clear effort to improve their coverage over their previous edition (from 0 to 14 and coverage as over twice as many neighborhoods). I wanted to recognize that fact. Consumers can decide whether to purchase the Handbook or whether there are others on the market that better suit their needs. If other guidebook publishers update their guides and notify me, I'll review their guides, too.



Public Meetings on DC Public Library Building Plans
Alexander M. Padro, 

A series of public meetings entitled “The Changing Face of Libraries: Buildings for the Future” is the start of a community conversation about rebuilding the District of Columbia's public libraries. This is the first in a series of efforts by the DC Public Library to reach out to residents and gather feedback during different stages of the planning process for a massive 10-year rebuilding effort that will affect all 27 DCPL locations. These presentations will inform citizens about the proposed building plan, explain how the process will move forward, and seek community feedback on the plan and the level of involvement residents want to have in the planning of this effort.

Four identical presentations will be made at the following branches on the dates indicated: April 6, 12:00-2:00 p.m., Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library, 115 Atlantic Street, SW (545-5881); April 9, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW (727-0321); April 22, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Cleveland Park Neighborhood Library, 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW (282-3072); April 29, 6:30-8:30 p.m., Lamond-Riggs Neighborhood Library, 5401 South Dakota Avenue, NW (541-5924). For more information on these meeting, call the DC Public Library Marketing & Communications Department at 727-1186.


The Crawl-Space Waltz

This upcoming performance is by an exciting, under-recognized local talent. “The Crawl-Space Waltz,” a theatrical event from local Alexandrian Paula Alprin, is part of the Spring 2002 season of “Monday Night at the National” and will have two performances on April 8, at 6:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., in the Helen Hayes Gallery of The National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW. Free admission, first come, first seated. Seating is limited, tickets are required and are distributed one half-hour prior to the performance. For further information, call The National Theatre at 783-3372 or Brian Alprin at 776-7820.

“The Crawl-Space Waltz”: in drama, dance, and music, the story of a melancholy dancer slowly and surprisingly unfolds. She sits elegantly dressed and coifed at the edge of a dance floor with a dashing gentleman, as she recalls her “30-year search for the perfect ballroom partner.” Distraught over a piece of tragic news, she finds her life coming full circle as she eventually came face-to-face with her own involvement in the tragedy. Paula Alprin wrote the script, choreographed the production, and costars with Joe Cronin.


Art Snacks: Emerging Artists Sale
Michael Seto, 

Art Snacks: “tasty little affordable pieces of art for your cultural consumption pleasure.” The Triangle Artists Group and KUNA present a sale by emerging area artists on Sunday, April 14, from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 1324 U Street, NW. Unique pieces, multiples, and commissioned work will be offered by the best emerging talents on the Washington scene. Participating artists include JS (Jim) Adams, sound and print works; Daniel Emberley, custom textile arts; Meltdown Glass Studio; Joel Meneses, photography; Charles Newcomb, oils; Frederick Nunley, prints and drawings; Tom Qualey, digital prints; Ira Tattelman, altered photographs; Ruth Trevarrow, oils and murals.

Chef Mark Giuricich will supplement the art snacks with selections from his menu of farmhouse Italian specialties. Contact coordinator Daniel Emberley, 462-7876,, with questions.


CareFirst Conversion, Your Health Care Could Be Affected!
Sara Pollock, 

Town hall meeting, Monday April 8, from 6:30-8:30 p.m., Martin Luther King Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room A5 (1-2 blocks from Metro Center and Gallery Place Metro Stations). CareFirst, the DC area's nonprofit Blue Cross Blue Shield plan, is seeking government approval to convert from a nonprofit company to a for-profit company and merge with a California-based for-profit insurance company, WellPoint. CareFirst (the DC area’s BCBS plan) has historically operated as the “insurer of last resort” for those who don't have access to other insurance. This conversion from nonprofit to for-profit could result in many DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia residents losing their health insurance; higher premiums, which could make health insurance unaffordable for many more, increasing the already large numbers of uninsured metropolitan area residents; unreasonable profits for insurance industry executives at the public’s expense (CareFirst executives could receive up to $33 million if the deal goes through).

Will these be the consequences if the conversion is allowed to happen? National Capital Area CareFirst Watch, a locally-based public interest coalition that monitors the conversion process and the impending sale of CareFirst, is addressing these issues and wants you to come to a meeting to learn more about them. You’ll hear from the DC decision-makers in the deal, including the Insurance Commissioner, Corporation Counsel attorneys, and members of the DC Council. You’ll also get the chance to ask questions to public health experts about the potential health care impacts of the conversion, and to representatives of CareFirst itself. Former Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder will make a presentation on behalf of CareFirst Watch. Come and find out how the conversion could affect your health care! For more information, contact National Capital Area CareFirst Watch, which is sponsoring the meeting. Call 393-1158, E-mail, or go to


A Night of Storytelling on Call of the Wild
Robert Revere, 

A Night of Storytelling on the theme: “Call of the Wild,” April 9 at HR-57, 1610 14th Street, NW (near corner of Q Street). Doors open 7:30 p.m., show starts 8 p.m. Cover $5. They sell food, beer and wine, but you can BYOB for an extra $3 corking fee.

Washington Storytellers Theatre presents its monthly open mic storytelling event, the Speak Easy. Storytellers, new and seasoned, gather to share their own stories on the night's theme, or to kick back with a beer and some soul food to enjoy the eclectic and unpredictable mix of stories that others bring to the Speak Easy stage. Click here for more information:


1968 Rebellion Remembered: 14th Street Freestyle: “68-2-98”
Eddie Becker, 

Thirty four years ago this week, Washington's 14th Street corridor was consumed in riots during the tumultuous days following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Teenagers from the Martha's Table Adolescent Program took their cameras out on the streets into the community interviewing local activists, searching area archives, and compiling original footage in an effort to understand a year that changed Washington forever. Riots or rebellion? Dead end or new beginning? They help you decide in this compelling video. Lively discussion follows the video show with guests Clark McKnight, Anthony Roberson, and others, who remember the riots and are in the video. Fahima Seck provides lively moderation of the distinctly different viewpoints on the events as the DC community sees it.

Showing at DC Independent Media Center, 2329 Champlain Street, NW (near 18th Street and Columbia Road), 483-3700, Friday, April 5, 7:00. This extraordinary video document was produced by OUTSIDE WOOLLY, the award-winning arts education program of Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. Production consultation and technical support was generous provided by the Public Access Corporation of the District of Columbia (DCTV).



Desk for Sale
Clare Feinson, 

Beautiful computer desk from the Oak Post. 30" x 60", excellent condition, disassembles for moving. We love it, but it's too big for our current space. Paid $900, will sell for $600. Clare 667-4701,


Treadmill for Sale
Michelle E. Hynes, 

I have a “Keys 1200” SES Treadmill, adjustable speed and incline, that I'd like to sell. I bought it in July 1999; it's been used very little since that time and is in excellent condition. Original price was $900 plus shipping; I'll sell it for $400 (or best offer). You must be able to pick it up from my home in Mount Pleasant. Please reply by E-mail to


Moving and Yard Sale
Candace Brosowsky, 

Stereo cabinet, white student desk, miscellaneous furniture, lamps, kids' toys, exercise equipment, sports stuff, household items, kitchen stuff, clocks, gardening tools and paraphernalia, paintings/pictures/posters, jewelry and jewelry boxes, clothes (various sizes), shoes, books, costumes and other exciting stuff! Saturday, April 6, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Rain date? Canceled! In the Palisades neighborhood at 5071 MacArthur Boulevard, NW.



Work Day for Pediatric AIDS/HIV Care

April 6, 12 noon to 3 p.m. Bring your old clothes, we'll be painting the hallway; downstairs toilet is broken, needs rotor rootering; cupboards need to be put back on the cabinets in the class room; office needs tending to; ceiling fans put up; donated computers checked for usability, etc. We need any one wants to help this wonderful after school facility for children with AIDS or who are HIV positive. The house at 450 M Street, NW (two blocks south of the new convention center) is an amazing children's after school facility and DC's only organization that has created a specific program that focuses exclusively on providing therapeutic, educational, practical, and social support services for families living HIV and AIDS. A quote from a volunteer form: “You're 12 years old and your mother is dying of AIDS. Your baby brother is HIV positive and your father left the family years ago. You can remember when there was no sickness in your family and your family was together. You know that you will be alone in a few years. Who will care for you? In the Metropolitan Washington, DC, area, Pediatric AIDS/HIV Care is dedicated to alleviating the devastation for children living with AIDS/HIV.” Please E-mail or call Sarah Barnett (248-3212) if you have questions.


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