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April 10, 2002

Privacy and the Police

Dear Private Citizens:

Chief Charles Ramsey began to build a network of spy cameras throughout the District without public notice and without any rules or regulations to govern their use. When it finally came to the public's attention, the House Subcommittee on the District of Columbia held a hearing on electronic surveillance in DC ( and the City Council passed a temporary bill to require the Metropolitan Police Department to draft regulations governing their use ( 

Now the MPD has issued its draft general order on video surveillance cameras (, and it shows again why we can't rely on the police to protect personal liberties and individual privacy. Their business is enforcement, not our rights. The initial reaction of City Councilmembers, as reported in this morning's Washington Post, is that Chief Ramsey's proposed order is completely inadequate, and that the Council will have to step in to legislate protections for citizens against the misuse of any video surveillance system. Let's all hope that the Council carries through on its intentions. Experience with extensive video surveillance systems in England and Australia have proven them to be both expensive and ineffective, with no measurable impact on either crime prevention or crime solving. Nevertheless, plenty of DC citizens are willing to sacrifice liberty and privacy for just the illusion of increased safety. The Council's job, if it will accept it, will be to save what measure of personal privacy it can against the pressing demands to install Big Brother's eyes in the sky.

Gary Imhoff 


Springtime: Only in Washington
Phil Carney, 

Several years ago we visited the Tidal Basin to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the cherry blossoms and heard Japanese Koto music from across the Basin. As we walked around, we listened to this different but very appropriate music. Eventually we came to a grove of blooming cherry trees and found not kimono-costumed musicians, but a black man playing his boom box.

This year we walked among the Japanese cherry blossoms and listened to Iranian music. It's their spring festival, which I think was explained yesterday in Farsi, but fortunately was explained today (Monday, April 8) in English in the Post.


Traffic Signals and Street Signs
Ron Eberhardt, 

What in the world has gone wrong with traffic light signal and street sign maintenance? It seems that in every quadrant of the city there are significant number of traffic signals that either are completely in the dark or where one or more bulbs are obviously out. In addition there are so many signals that are not facing correctly that oftentimes it is difficult, particularly so in traffic circles, to determine who has the right of way. Add to that street signs that are either missing or have been turned so that streets have two names, and it makes for a chaotic situation in an already traffic frustrated city. The deficiencies are causing dangerous situations and great confusion. Washington remains a city that cannot maintain its streets and now it apparently seeks the dubious distinction of adding malfunctioning or misdirected signals/signs to the list. How impressive for a world-class city that seeks to host the Olympics, don't you think?


Problems with the Red Line
David Sobelsohn, dsobelsoatcapaccessdotorg

Has anyone else noticed this problem? WMATA's published schedule shows a Red line train leaving Dupont Circle for Glenmont at quarter-to-the-hour in the late evening (10:45, 11:45, etc.). At exactly that time the "train entering station" lights start flashing on the platform. But in recent weeks, the lights have continued flashing for 10 or 15 minutes. A train finally arrives close to the hour. Does any themail subscriber know what's going on?


Painting Street Light Poles
Phil Carney, 

[Phil Carney's message on painting street light poles in the last issue of themail may not have made much sense, since it was meant as a follow-up to this message, which got lost in the wrong folder in my inbox. I assumed that this message had already been printed in themail, when instead it had just been mislaid. — Gary Imhoff]

Last Saturday neighbors spent 5 hours weeding and cleaning a public triangle park adjacent to Dupont Circle while a DC government employee painted the street light poles around the Circle. For the most part, the painting was well done. But the pole by the park we were working at had about 30 square feet of sidewalk splattered by globs of paint, although the painter did eventually cover the paint with sand. Paint was splattered on signs. Some pole bases were painted to within 2 inches or 4 inches of the sidewalk, but not completely painted to the sidewalk. (Close enough for government work?) In fairness, I'm probably the only one who noticed the sloppy work. But sloppy work is not professional work. I'm nitpicking, but I'm also sick and tired of unprofessional work by DC government workers. DC residents deserve better than sloppy.


Non-DC Business Charging DC Sales Tax
Shaun Snyder, 

A few months ago a themail contributor mentioned that Officemax (an Office Depot-like supply store) was charging DC residents sales tax on their web site even though they have no stores in DC. After about 15 phone calls over the course of several months, I finally reached an executive with a little bit of an education. He was about the only one who understood DC is not the country of Colombia, nor is it in the states of Maryland or Virginia. And since his company doesn't have a store in DC it shouldn't be charging sales tax. Hopefully he'll take action to correct the web site.

This illustrates two things: 1) Corporations are worse to deal with than the government. At least with the government you can call your elected officials and get help when the bureaucracy overwhelms you. 2) More importantly, in this information age there are people who don't even know what the District of Columbia is or that “Washington, DC” is not a city in a state somewhere. Maybe we should just give up -— abandon DC and move the capital to New York City . . . or Bethesda.


5:50 am to 6:05 am Trash Truck
Phil Carney, 

Here we go again. One of the rites of spring in Washington is that with longer hours of daylight we got earlier and earlier trash truck pickups. Garcia's truck arrived at the 1500 block of 17th Street, NW, at 5:50 a.m. and provided the deafening roar of a racing engine and all the noises of trash loading until 6:05 a.m. — fifteen minutes of loud and illegal noise!

The victims: anyone dumb enough to live in this damned neighborhood. The cause: business people who are only interested in making money off our neighborhood and who are smart enough to NOT live in our neighborhood, a Councilmember and an ANC dedicated only to the expansion of all those businesses, and a city government that won't . . . . (Trash trucks in residential neighborhoods are prohibited before 7 a.m.) Garcia's customers are Luna/Skewers and JRs. The perp: Garcia's, VA plate # 13259P, 703-690-1117.


Betty Sellers, 

Does anyone know if there is a DC Office of Ethics? In the federal government, all federal employees are required to receive ethics training administered by the federal office of ethics. It might be a good thing to create such an office for DC and require all DC government employees to attend yearly classes to prevent lapses in their understanding of what is ethical and what's not. Just a suggestion.


Ray Browne Announces for Reelection to Shadow Representative
Patrick Pellerin, 

U.S. Representative (Shadow) Ray Browne has announced that he is running for reelection. He already has received endorsements from a number of Democrats, including councilmembers Kevin Chavous, Adrian Fenty, Harold Brazil, and Jack Evans and a number of other local officials. In his year and a half in office, Browne has worked hard to gain national support for voting representation in Congress. He has secured resolutions of support from the city councils of Philadelphia, Chicago, Baltimore, and San Francisco with resolutions pending in Los Angeles, Illinois, and Boston. In addition, the mayors of Baltimore and New Orleans have issued proclamations of support. And, he has undertaken a program of contacting every governor and the leaders of state legislative bodies to encourage them to contact their Congressional delegations in support of Delegate Norton's "No Taxation Without Representation" legislation now in the Congress. Ray has worked hard in a position that offers neither salary nor much in the way of expenses. He deserves our vote for another term.


Re: Top 10 Excuses
Nick Keenan, Shaw, 

You left off: “I was conducting my own investigation.”


DCPL’s Budget (Response to Padro)
Matthew Gilmore, 

Taking a look at the Mayor's budget for the DC Public Library, one sees an increase. Sadly, that does, in fact, equal a cut, since mandated salary and utility increases more than consume the increase. The library needs to seriously reconsider its program and consolidate its unwieldy collection of 27 facilities into fewer, larger, new, well-staffed buildings. And bring along the Mayor and Office of Planning's support — which seems lacking now, since funding for upgrading and replacement isn't following the Library's plan. The Library has skimped for years, and the book fund (which covers far more than just print materials) has been serious eroded for years, even now over a decade.

Some other points to note: in making a case for the Library, one should not use just circulation figures. DCPL circulates about a million books/year, just two books per resident. But computer use and reference services are probably at least as important, if not more so.


Books and Boxing
Susan Ousley, 

I'd like to support the need for library funds. Recently my 9-year-old needed to read up on someone for African American History Month. We picked Althea Gibson. How hard could that be? I was reading a good book about her when I was 9. We searched and searched at MLK Library. So many sad and ragged books, but no Althea. Finally we found a book — the very same I'd read 40 years ago.

We learned, by the way, that Althea got into quite a bit of trouble when she was younger. But people kept helping her. One of those people was a famous boxer, who was not above helping others achieve. He helped her to go to college, to learn the rules of behavior on the tennis circuit. A boxer who used his hard-won position and money to help others. Anybody know who that was? And if there was $1 million to give to Tyson fight supporters, how about using it to buy books?


St. Coletta Issue
Lisa Alfred, 

Some of the citizens of Ward 6 who have attended the myriad of Office of Planning meetings regarding this issue are moving ahead to get local community organizations to officially express their outrage about how disingenuous the process was. Please see the following resolution that we have been circulating:

“The Barney Circle Neighborhood Watch Association would like to express its disapproval at placing St. Coletta School and St. Coletta Day Support Program on Reservation 13 without citizen input. The Association is particularly concerned at how both our Ward 6 City Council Member, Sharon Ambrose, and Mayor Anthony Williams have supported this proposal without any discussion with the citizens surrounding Reservation 13, or any citizen organization within Ward 6. Therefore, be it resolved that the Barney Circle Neighborhood Watch Association disapproves of the placement of the St. Coletta School and St. Coletta Day Support Program on Reservation 13.”


Reservation 13
Kenan Jarboe, Chair ANC 6B, 

I have heard a great deal of negative comment about the planning process concerning Reservation 13 -- including the recent criticism by the editor of this list. Let me just point out one fact: this is the first positive plan for the site that has come out in recent memory. Up until now, I have spent time trying to ward off bad ideas for this site — ranging from the city's isolation and quarantine area for the next bio-terrorism attack to re-creation of Lorton on the Potomac. The neighborhood is sick and tired of being a city sacrifice area! Need to dump something somewhere, like a crematorium or a 200-bed unsecured prisoner warehouse, well, we've got the site for you. And don't worry, it is already city/Federal land, so nobody (not even the dumb folks who live nearby) can complain. One can fault the details of the process — and I have — but Andy Altman and the Office of Planning are to be commended for a good effort in attempting to turn a “sacrifice area” into something that the neighbors, and the city as a whole, can benefit from.


Spam Spam Spam
John Whiteside at logancircle dot net 

Yahoo's Spamguard is the solution? Then we're really in trouble. I stopped using my Yahoo E-mail account because it was getting so much more spam than any other E-mail address I've got.


To Avoid Spam, Boycott Corporate E-mail Systems
Parisa Norouzi, 

For a person with four E-mail accounts, subscriptions to countless listserves and heavy E-mail traffic, I have been subject to remarkably little spam. The reason for this? I have never had an E-mail account with a big, corporate E-mail provider like AOL, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. Instead, I have two personal E-mail accounts that end with “,” serving the dual purposes of “proclaiming my environmental citizenship” and contributing to the visibility of the nonprofit group that sponsors the free E-mail service, the Center for Environmental Citizenship ( There are many, many groups that offer free E-mail services. No one is forcing you to be a tool of corporate E-mail systems, and subject to the insidious advertising they support.


Late Delivery of Mail
R.L. Widmann, 

On Friday, March 29, my mail carrier delivered two delayed items to my home on Capitol Hill. The first was postmarked October 2, 2001, and was a bill I had paid months before. The second was postmarked December 5, 2001, and was from my house insurance company. From time to time, I continue to receive holiday cards postmarked in late November 2001 or in December 2001.


Red Light Cameras
Bill Adler, 

I read the four-part series about red light cameras that was Bob Levine mentioned in the last issue of themail. The articles, which appeared in The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, discussed the pitfalls of red light cameras, using the District of Columbia's red light camera program as an example of things done wrong. Despite The Weekly Standard's trivialization of this problem, people die because of red light runners. A 150 pound pedestrian is no match for a 2,000 pound car. And unlike The Weekly Standard, I don't have any sympathy for people who run red lights.

The unfortunate truth is that drivers run red lights, and that red light cameras (and anti-speeding cameras) encourage us all to obey the law. And they catch people who break the law. My kids are at an age where they can now cross the street — in our case, Connecticut Avenue — by themselves. I give them a quarter every time they see a car run a red light on Connecticut Avenue: I usually pay out fifty cents per light cycle, because not one, but two cars run the red light. Red light running is rampant in the District of Columbia. Red light running is a real danger for pedestrians and other drivers. It doesn't take a bunch of statistics to prove that (or disprove it): All you need are your eyes.

Are red light cameras the perfect solution to this serious problem? No, but they're a good, effective tool, and are being improved, too. Nobody has the right to put anybody else's life in danger by running red lights. Personally, I'd rather have police officers spending their time catching crooks than ticketing red light runners. Put the cops on the street, and let the cameras nab the red light runners.



Drumming It Up!
Dorothy Marschak, 

Everyone is invited to Petworth Library (Georgia and Kansas Avenues, NW) this Saturday, April 13, at 2 p.m. for a journey through the Americas with percussionist Steven Nash and his group Ajiki exploring the different drumming styles and their African roots. Steve uses a variety of percussive instruments from the countries and encourages the audience to participate in dance, song and rhythm. This free family friendly program is sponsored by CHIME (Community Help In Music Education). For more information about the program or CHIME, visit our website:, or E-mail


NCAA Baseball in DC this Weekend!
John Vocino, 

Howard University will be playing five home games this weekend at Benjamin Banneker Field in DC. The Howard Bison play two games against Coppin State (of Baltimore) on Saturday, April 13th, starting at 12:00 p.m., then on Sunday the 14th at 1:00 p.m. The Bison then take on Norfolk State for two games on Tuesday, April 16th (DH), starting at 2:00 p.m.

This is one of the first times in a number of years that any of DC’s NCAA Division I baseball programs -- Howard, George Washington, Georgetown — have played a home game in DC. A May 10, 2001, Washington Post article described the problems that Howard Bison and the other college programs are faced with. As the article noted, the Howard program has been playing its home games 28 miles away at a baseball stadium located by BWI Airport — a 40 minute drive one way. (George Washington’s program has to travel to Arlington and Georgetown travels up to Potomac MD for its home games.) Over the winter, created a working dialog between Howard’s head coach, Jimmy Williams, and officials in DC Department of Parks and Recreation to identify times and dates for practices and games. Efforts are still ongoing to identify more permanent arrangement that will result in better serving not only Howard’s program, but DC Public School baseball and softball programs, as well as local summer teams in DC.

Banneker baseball field is located at the Banneker Recreation Center at 2500 Georgia Avenue, NW, and admission is free. For additional information please contact Howard University Athletics (Ed Hill — or (Matt Cary, 408-0808).


Jewish Concepts of Peace and Conflict Resolution
Ivor Heyman, 

The Talmud teaches that the world is maintained by three things: justice, truth, and peace. As we search for answers to modern conflicts, we can draw valuable guidance from the Jewish tradition and the way in which it reconciles peace and justice with the need for self-protection. This workshop will examine the concepts of milhemet hovah (obligatory war), milhemet reshut (optional war), and milhemet mitzvah (defensive war), and analyze the limited circumstances under which the Jewish people are permitted to go to war, launch preemptive strikes, and cause loss of life. Workshop participants will gain a deeper understanding of why peace reigns as one of the supreme values in Jewish thought and action.

The workshop on Jewish concepts of peace and conflict resolution will be given on Thursday, April 11, at 7:30-9:30 p.m., at the DCJCC, 1529 16th Street, NW. Tuition, $20; presenter, Ivor Heyman. RSVP: or 483-0636. Please make advance reservations. Ivor Heyman is a mediator and facilitator who specializes in resolving organizational conflict. He also gives presentations on the subject of mediation in the Jewish tradition at synagogues and Jewish community centers in the DC metropolitan area. For further information about Mr. Heyman, please visit his web site at


Environmental Justice Forum
Julie Eisenhardt, 

Are you curious about environmental issues East of the River? Do you want to know more about environmental justice? Come join Eugene Dewitt Kinlow, President, Far Southwest Civic Association; George Gurley, President, Urban Defenders; and the Sierra Club's Environmental Justice Program for a forum to answer all your questions. Hear about the campaign to shut down the Benning Road PEPCO Plant, the campaign for good development at DC Village, and how these and other environmental issues relate to health and quality of life. Free and open to the public. Tuesday, April 16 at 7 p.m. Cleveland Park Library auditorium. Questions? Call 610-3360.


Stuart Eizenstat to Address NIJL at the J
Stacy Immerman, 

You are invited to Imperfect Justice: The Unfinished Business of World War II, a Holocaust Remembrance Day program. The National Institute for Jewish Leadership (NIJL) will host a discussion featuring Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat to be held on Tuesday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m. at the DCJCC, 1529 16th Street, NW. To reserve your ticket, please call Stacy at 202.777.3238 or E-mail Member tickets are $8, and non member tickets are $12. Both ticket prices include the reception to follow the event.

Ambassador Eizenstat has been the prime mover in the Holocaust-era assets restitution process. He will discuss his involvement on behalf of the U.S. Government from 1995-2001, charting U.S. policy and overseeing investigations and negotiations on slave and forced labor, insurance claims, Swiss gold, and dormant Holocaust-era Swiss bank accounts. Stuart Eizenstat served as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury, Deputy Secretary of Commerce, and Undersecretary of State in the Clinton Administration, and as President Carter's Domestic Policy Advisor. He was also Special Representative for the President and Secretary of State on Holocaust Issues, and U.S. Ambassador to the European Union.


Concerned Citizens on Alcohol and Drug Abuse Host 22nd Anniversary Celebration
Samuel Foster, 

The Concerned Citizens on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, located at 3115 M.L. King Avenue, SE, is hosting it's 22nd Anniversary Celebration at Allen AME Church, 2498 Alabama Avenue, SE, on Saturday, May 4, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Invited guests include Ward 8 City Councilmember Sandy Allen and Councilmember at Large David Catania. Alumni and Staff of the program will be in attendance. Founders of CCADA are Samuel and Nona Foster, residents of Ward 8. Refreshments will be served. To RSVP call 563-3209 or 3210.



Higher Achievement Program
Allison Annette Foster, 

Now is the time to enroll your child in Higher Achievement's summer academy. If your children are in the 5th through 8th grades, and you want to expand their opportunities, contact the Higher Achievement Program (HAP) today. HAP offers a summer education program for DC middle-schoolers from underserved areas. Call us to volunteer or to enroll your child, at 842-5116, or visit our web site, At Higher Achievement, we make learning fun.



Grocery Delivery by Urban Grocery LLC
Richard Urban, 

Get grocery delivery to your kitchen counter with a smile! Save time and save money. Let us do the shopping, waiting, and lugging for about the same price as shopping yourself. Try it now, guaranteed. If you are not completely satisfied, we will refund the delivery fee (see web site for details). Delivery is made by friendly Urban Grocery Associates. Go to, or call 544-5081 for more information.


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