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April 7, 2002

Open and Transparent Goverment

Dear Inputers:

Inexplicably, the Administration's draft master plan for the DC General Site, which city officials are now calling “Reservation 13,” hasn't been released to the public or published on the Office of Planning's web site or the special web site for the planning process. Never fear; read it here: The whole planning process for the DC General site has once again demonstrated this administration's dedication to doing insider deals with favored developers behind closed doors. St. Coletta's School was given prime acreage before the process began, and the public participants weren't even informed about it until after the planning process was well underway. The Department of Health will put administrative offices and labs on the site, and the administration is passing this off as “health care facilities,” when what the vast majority of neighborhood participants wanted instead was real health care facilities at which people could actually get health services.

Citizens can fuss and fume at public meetings, but their “input” changes nothing. Representatives of the Office of Planning are perfectly willing to sit through endless meetings at which residents are allowed to spout off, as long as nothing that the residents say will have any effect. Mere residents and citizens of this city are nothing more than window dressing at planning charades, invited in to give a gloss of decisions that have already been made.

Memo to the Andrew Altman at the Office of Planning: I don't want to give any more input. Keep your “opportunities for input”; they're a waste of people's time. You've known that from the beginning, and citizens in community after community have come to realize it. Instead of input, give citizens power. I want citizens to have real, effective power over the development decisions made by this government. If you're not willing to do that, stop the pretense.

Gary Imhoff 


Split Decision
Dorothy Brizill, 

John Koskinen is currently both the City Administrator and the Deputy Mayor for Operations, but these days Koskinen is feeling overwhelmed and tired by his long work hours. To accommodate him, the FY 2003 DC budget indicates that the Williams administration has decided to separate the two positions: “A new Deputy Mayor for Operations (being proposed in FY 2002) will focus on infrastructure and support operations of the Departments of Motor Vehicles, Public Works, and Transportation, and the offices of the Chief Technology Officer, Contracting and Procurement, Personnel, Property Management and Risk Management.” This will free Koskinen, as City Administrator, to concentrate on the “bigger issues,” policy, and planning.

The actual reason that the two positions may have to be separated is the out-of-control bloating of the City Administrator's office under the Williams administration. The operating budget for the City Administrator's office has doubled from $15.1 million in FY 2000 to a proposed $30.2 million in FY 2003, and the staff of the office has nearly tripled in the same three years, from 38 to 111.

A national search is now underway to recruit a Deputy Mayor for Operations. According to sources, the leading candidate at this time is the only DC-area resident under consideration: Herbert R. Tillery, the Executive Director of George Washington University's Center for Excellence in Municipal Management (a joint project of GWU, the District government, and the Fannie Mae Foundation). Foggy Bottom residents, now as always battling constant real estate encroachments from the University, will be sure to view Tillery's appointment as the latest example of GW president Stephen Trachtenberg's influence within the Williams administration. But the administration is sure to argue that the Center's mission of producing excellent city managers is what recommended Tillery. Tillery has demonstrated how successful his own management skills are in his previous position with DC government, as Chief of Staff to the Control Board's appointed School Superintendent, General Julius Becton.


We Get the Government We Deserve
Jonetta Rose Barras, 

Not only is the recent report by Inspector General Charles Maddox alarming for what it does not disclose about the clandestine fundraising activities of aides of Mayor Anthony A. Williams but equally troubling is the reaction by civic and political leaders. DC Councilmembers, such as Mayor-in-Wanting Kevin Chavous, have correctly argued that the IG left far too many questions unanswered and sanitized the report, using inexact language that neither fully exonerated the mayor nor fully held him accountable for his posse of influence peddlers and fund collectors. But then Chavous and the others backed away from the obvious course of action, which is demanding more from the IG or from the mayor. Ward 8 Democratic leader and political operative Philip Pannell suggested that no one cares except political junkies, who have nothing better to do with their time. And former financial control board chairman Alice Rivlin told the Washington Times the fundraising fiasco is “unfortunate” but “not a major threat. It would be unfortunate if it deflects from the business of improving the government and the economy.” Ms. Rivlin always has had a myopic, flawed definition of what constitutes government improvements. (But let's save that for another discussion). This attitude is what sponsored the philosophy of government-for-the-highest-bidder during the several tenures of Marion S. Barry, Jr. It helped usher in the period where government served not the people who needed it most but special interests and cronies, eventually resulting in six major agencies slipping into court-order receiverships.

The fundraising conducted by Williams’ underlings is important. Residents — taxpaying, law-abiding, residents who want good, clean government — should be very concerned, and maybe even a little hysterical. Here's why: First, the integrity and highest ethical standard of the office of the mayor has essentially been eroded. It's rare that anyone notices the incremental damage of erosion, until the soil has been completely eaten away threatening the entire infrastructure. Who paid any attention when Barry gave a contract to one friend, then another? It wasn’t until there was ample evidence that Barry's friends were getting rich while the poor were becoming poorer that folks began to shout, albeit not nearly loudly enough, for change. Like children mimicking their parents, government employees and agency directors take their lead from the chief executive. If they have been following Williams they may have already concluded that the best way to avert culpability is to blame subordinates or recite mea culpa 100 times before any television camera or newspaper reporter, while simultaneously avoiding procurement regulations, the Hatch Act, ethic counselors, and campaign finance laws.

The second reason for citizens not to divert their attention is that large sums of money remain unaccounted for. Not only have the mayor and his people been unable to document how much they collected, from whom, and for what, they also have not quantified how many taxpayer dollars were spent in this effort. Consider for a moment the IG's conclusion based on his investigation that some staff in the mayor’s office spent all their time passing the plate. Because you and I, through our taxes, pay their salary, we in essence subsidized this unethical and perhaps illegal activity. The staff person hustling greenbacks for thinly veiled political activities could have been working on improving education, or finding money for the pitiful library system, or helping to improve the city’s mental health delivery system. Third, there was a clear indication of a quid pro quo: One nonprofit, the Church Association for Community Services, indicated that it provided blank checks to Williams' aides with the understanding that it would get the mayor's blessing for a federal contract, and perhaps more. The question that must be asked is how many other times did the Williams administration permit itself to be bought, compromised in much the same way as Barry was during his repeated turns at the public trough. Did the developers in Columbia Heights, for example, win that bid because they offered something to the mayor and his boys? Just who has come through the front door because he slipped a little something under the back door?

Finally, it is enough to engage in unethical or possible illegal activities, but then to aid in the destruction of other organizations is unconscionable. How, you ask did the mayor and his folks do this? Well, let's take the example of the CACS. As a nonprofit the organization cannot engage in certain political activities. Not only did it do that with the assistance of mayoral staffers, but it also diverted its attention and money to activities that were inconsistent with its mission, now endangering its tax-exempt status. Residents who are supporters of Williams also ought to feel betrayed. Here was the man who not only was going to revive the notion of good government and reform municipal delivery systems, but who also was going to restore a good name and reputation for integrity to the office of the mayor. The IG report indicates that, at least on the latter, Williams and his minions have failed miserably. And mea culpa just isn’t enough anymore.


Dorothy Brizill, 

Mayor Williams has nominated former Councilmember H.R. Crawford to serve on the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, one of the most prestigious and important of this city's boards and commissions ( Crawford's appointment and confirmation process are being overseen by Ron Collins, director of the Mayor's Office of Boards and Commissions and formerly a senior member of Crawford's Council staff. Last year, Crawford lobbied the Mayor to appoint Collins to the Boards and Commissions position.

Crawford, long an ally of Marion Barry, was also an early supporter of Williams. He helped to fund and set up Williams' Ward 7 campaign office in 1998, provided office space and support for the Mayor's school charter amendment campaign, and has served as a member of the Mayor's kitchen cabinet since 1998. As detailed in the Inspector General's report on the Mayor's fundraising, Crawford also provided the $2000 that was used to pay Caroline Parrish for chauffeuring the Mayor's mother: “According to JONES, Dr. OMER tasked him to find a way to pay PARRISH and to keep her quiet. JONES admitted that he solicited funds from H.R. CRAWFORD, former DC Council member, former HUD official, local real estate development, and neighbor of PARRISH, who donated $1,500 to CACS in August 2000 and $500 to EFG in December 2000. CRAWFORD advised that he knew that his donations were to support PARRISH. He specifically remembered being contacted by JONES and by Louise 'Lucy' YOUNG, a contract employee and assistant to JONES, for these donations and for instructions on drafting the checks.”


Taxation Without Representation
Pete Ross, 

Let us stop grousing about our enslavement and begin to make noise. Women got the right to vote in the early part of the last century by demonstrating. Blacks got full voting rights by demonstrating. Now is time for us DC residents to get full voting rights. Join the effort. Check out Let's make noise. We cannot be docile lambs permitting ourselves to be slaughtered by a Congress where we do not have representation.


Snail Mail
Mary Farrell, 

The mailman delivered today, Friday, April 5, a Christmas card that was mailed Friday, December 21, 2001. Have you heard one better than this?


Red Light Cameras
Bob Levine, 

A very good article about red light cameras from the Weekly Standard. It's a bit long, in five parts, and very critical of them, but it's a good read:


Something Good about the DC Government
Pete Ross, 

Last fall, the DC government placed barrels with sand along several of the streets in our neighborhood to be used when it snows. On Thursday, April 3, I observed a crew with two trucks retrieving the sand barrels. I noticed that the crew retrieving the barrels were dumping the sand and taking just the barrels, leaving piles of sand in the streets. I placed two calls to the DC government, one to Bill Rice, spokesperson for the DOT (671-2004), and a second call to the office of Councilmember Kathy Patterson (724-8062) at approximately 9:00 a.m. Much to my surprise, by 11:30 a.m., the DC government had already sent someone to our neighborhood to investigate this dumping of sand on our streets and had all of the streets cleaned up by the middle of the afternoon.

The DOT had sent Carlson Klathor (645-7050), Chief of Investigations & Inspections for the DOT, who personally came to look at what happened and find out why this occurred. Complements to the DC government for its quick and timely response with this problem. On Friday, I received an E-mail from Bill Rice informing me that he believes that the sand barrels were dumped because they were being stolen. The thieves wanted the barrels. If anyone notices a crew in their neighborhood dumping the sand before taking the sand barrels, note the license on the truck and call the police (and Bill Rice). They are probably being stolen.


Painting Street Light Poles — Follow-up
Phil Carney, 

One week to the day that street light poles were “mostly” painted around Dupont Circle, I saw two DC government employees repainting the same poles. Hoping to not be recognized, I pulled down my cap, walked by and said with genuine sincerity, “Looks good, thanks a lot.” They replied, “Thank you.” And it does look better.


Alphabet Soup, MetroLite, and Regional Indecision on Transportation
Len Sullivan, 

Ever lie awake nights wondering what APTA, COG, FTA, GAO, LRTA, NTSC, and WMATA think about HRT, LRT, and BRT? Throughout the national capital metro area, the tough decisions have yet to be made on how to expand urban public transit. How should DC's outstanding Metrorail (HRT) system be expanded? Do modern multiunit trolleys (LRT) have a niche in DC, and how would 'MetroLite' compare with new concepts for bus rapid transit (BRT)? What have other cities got? Where might Very Light Rail fit in? Which threat is more likely to constrain DC's future growth: random acts of terrorism or deliberate acts of indecision on the region's transportation needs? NARPAC's answers can be found in the April update of its web site at Take a ride. Get positively involved.



Conversations With Newsmakers
Kathy Sinzinger, 

You're invited to chat with DCTV Executive Director Nantz Rickard about DC public access television's new state-of-the-art facilities at Brooks Mansion as The Common Denominator, DC's hometown newspaper, presents another of its free, monthly Conversations With Newsmakers on Friday, April 12, 2002, from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at Kelly's Ellis Island Restaurant & Pub, 3908 12th Street, NE, in Brookland. Free parking is available. Ellis Island also is within walking distance of the Brookland/CUA station on Metro's Red Line (exit on the side with buses). Questions? Call Kathy at 635-6397.


LCCA — Demonstrate for ABC Reform
B. Warren Lane, 

Forwarded from Donald Hawkins, Logan Circle Community Association: Join councilmembers and residents in a demonstration for Alcohol Beverage Control board reform on April 10 from 5:30 - 6 p.m. on the front steps of the Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW). This demonstration directly precedes the Council's budget oversight hearing at 6 p.m., and is our opportunity to show our outrage with the Board's lax enforcement of laws and general disregard for community interest. For more information on our goals for this demonstration, go to

It is very important that we get a good turnout to show the breadth of community support for ABC Reform. Please come and bring two friends! The hearing will be held in DC Council Chambers: 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, 4th Floor and is open to all who wish to attend. Anyone wishing to testify should contact Jasmine Yates at 727-8229 before the close of business on April 8.


April 13th Anacostia Waterfront Parks Summit 

Don't miss the Anacostia Waterfront Park Summit on Saturday, April 13th from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. at Savoy Elementary School, 2400 Shannon Place, SE. Savoy Elementary school is 1 block from the Anacostia Metro Station on the Green line. The Park Summit is part of Mayor Anthony Williams' Anacostia Waterfront initiative and is sponsored by the District of Columbia Office of Planning and the National Park Service. Come discuss and learn about possibilities for the Anacostia River and its waterfront. The envisioned Anacostia Waterfront Parks network will encircle both sides of the Anacostia waterfront and contain an unmatched collection of recreational, educational, and cultural facilities all in a state-of-the-art sustainable landscape. For more information about the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, please see our web site at  We encourage you to share this information with others that might be interested in attending.


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