Top Ten Excuses and Alibis
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dorothy Brizill, email@example.com
I Wouldn’t Believe It If I Didn’t See It
David Pansegrouw, firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
A Freudian Slip?
Ed T. Barron, email@example.com
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, Padroanc2c@aol.com
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
Taxation Without Representation: Fruit of an
Mark Richards, Dupont East, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/a1_9_4s16.html.
Nothing in the Constitution seems to forbid DC from protesting its
situation or stating the fact from the top of a flagpole.
Mark Eckenwiler, email@example.com
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 http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/2002/02-03-31.htm.]
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 http://cfo.dc.gov/services/tax/property/2001dc_assess_report.shtm.
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
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 http://caselaw.lp.findlaw.com/scripts/getcase.pl?navby=case&court=us&vol=488&invol=336.
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 http://home.quiknet.com/quiknet/quikhelp/html/spamming.html.
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.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org
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 (http://www.dcwatch.com/richards/000126.htm)
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.
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
Public Meetings on DC Public Library Building
Alexander M. Padro, Padroanc2c@aol.com
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.
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, email@example.com
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, firstname.lastname@example.org,
CareFirst Conversion, Your Health Care Could
Sara Pollock, email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org,
or go to http://www.carefirstwatch.org.
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: http://www.washingtonstorytellers.org/speakeezy.htm.
1968 Rebellion Remembered: 14th Street
Eddie Becker, email@example.com
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).
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
CLASSIFIEDS — VOLUNTEERS
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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