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April 14, 2002

Pessimists and Optimists

Dear Observers:

I admit it; I'm a pessimist about human nature, especially as human nature is expressed in our local politics. Dorothy, though she doesn't like to admit it, is an optimist. Which means that, as an observer of politics and of the local government of the District of Columbia, Dorothy is constantly disheartened, while I am rarely disappointed. The past few weeks have presented great occasions to illustrate our different natures. For months “reasonable people” maintained that only conspiracy theorists believed that DC General had to be closed in order to claim the land for the city's Olympics bid. Dorothy uncovered the plans to use the hospital land for sports, but she didn't want to believe that the health of Washington's poor would be sacrificed just to satisfy the desires of wealthy suburban jock sniffers to be big players in international sports. Now it's all out in the open, or at least most of it is out in the open. Chief Few's phony resume, submitted nearly two years ago, turned out to be only the first of a line of phony resumes submitted by the other underqualified people Few brought into the Fire Department. Some of the Mayor's illegal fundraising schemes have been brought into partial light by the Inspector General's report, though a great deal remains to be discovered and reported.

Dorothy's been depressed by the succession of news, even though she knew most of it for months and worked hard to expose it. As for me, unfortunately, it all only confirms what I expected of this government and this administration. How can I be disappointed? Or rather, how much more can I be disappointed?

Enough, enough. Maxim Magazine, it its current issue, has named DC as the best city in the world. Can they possibly be right? Let's remind each other why it's at least in the running for that title. As I plead occasionally, and I always mean it, write about something good in this town.

Gary Imhoff 


Who’s Kidding Who?
Ed T. Barron, 

In a complete turnaround the committee that is seeking to bring the year 2012 Summer Olympics to the Washington/Baltimore area has decided that the winner need not have all the facilities and venues all in place (which was the basis for the original bid). Now they claim that a whole new Olympic complex needs to be created around RFK Stadium. This complex, by my estimates, is likely to cost in excess of $100M. Where on earth is that money going to come from? Perhaps that prodigious fund raiser, Tony Williams, can tap his corporate buddies for that sum. Hey, they could even name the fund “For The Kids.” Well, it's not likely that the corporate pals will cough up much this time and the money will have to come from the DC treasury.

That's money that could be much better spent addressing the real major problems that this city faces, namely education, housing, and crime. There are those who say how much better the city is now with Williams as the mayor. I say that the changes all just are eyewash and cosmetics. There have been no real changes in the DC Government infrastructure (read bloated bureaucracy) to make it more effective and efficient. It's more of the same each year despite the promises made by Mayor Williams over the last four years. As for the Olympic Games in the year 2012, who's kidding who?


Plea to Pedestrians
Gregory Diaz, 

I walk to and from work almost every day along Connecticut Avenue through Dupont Circle, and almost every day I see pedestrians daring fate by crossing against the light. Some even make it a point to arrogantly face down traffic. Last night, a gaggle of three almost got clobbered by a series of cars turning on a left turn green at the Hilton. I yelled and they held back, but then one guy went ahead and dared yet another car! I guess he felt righteous. What an idiot! I have had the misfortune to see no fewer than five pedestrians actually hit by cars, and several other post-strike consequences. Folks, the cars win every time, and it isn't pretty. You may be fortune's child, but a ton or so of metal will clock you damned good. In every case I personally witnessed, the pedestrian was either trying to beat a light or crossing through traffic in the middle of the street. Yes, signal light violators are a serious problem in DC, but, please, don't give them a target! Cross at the marked corners and wait for the walk light. If there is no light, be sure you have plenty of time and space to get safely across. Someone loves you and would hate to get that call from the police.


Parks and Recreation Department — Good News
Phil Carney, 

For years neighbors have been looking after a tiny triangle park just south of the Belmont Mansion at Corcoran, 18th Street and New Hampshire Avenue, NW. One woman planted daffodil bulbs. Bill Briggs has helped keep the park clean and helped pay for flowers and plants and I’ve done the gardening. Unfortunately between two trees taking most of the water and too many dogs, we’ve lost more flowers and plants than we’ve grown.

Mulberry and oak trees, over twenty feet high, were growing about ten feet apart and essentially killing each other in a struggle for space and water. Years of requests for removal of the unhealthy mulberry always met with the explanation that the park belongs to DC’s Park and Recreation Department and they have no money for tree work. Called again this spring and now Parks does have money for tree work. In just a few days, the dying mulberry was removed! The little park looks much better and now the oak tree can thrive. Park’s employees even apologized for the damage to some of our plants and flowers during the tree removal. The gesture was appreciated, but some damage was inevitable and forgivable given the large size of the tree. And Parks promises to return and remove the stump. I am awesomely impressed with the promptness, professionalism and courtesy of all Parks and Recreation Department employees involved in improving our little park. Bill, our Dupont Circle neighbors and I thank the Parks Department.


Few Good Men
Dorothy Brizill, 

On Friday, readers of the Washington Post discovered what readers of themail have known since Ronnie Few was first nominated to be DC Fire Chief, that Few's resume contained several false statements. On October 1, 2000, Gary wrote in themail: “At Chief Few's confirmation hearing, Few's supporters, especially Stephen Harlan, who led the search committee, pointed repeatedly to the awards that he listed in his resume as evidence of his suitability for the job. The most prestigious of these awards was the Fire Chief of the Year award given to him by the International Association of Fire Fighters. When Dorothy, in her testimony, revealed that the IAFF was an AFL-CIO union that had never given an award to Ronnie Few and had, in fact, never given any award called 'Fire Chief of the Year,' the Council reacted with indifference and a complete lack of interest. It is the Robert Newman syndrome again — write whatever you think will be impressive on your job application, and the administration will help you correct the misstatements after you get the job.” Chief Few and Mayoral spokesman Tony Bullock are now falsely claiming that Few corrected this “mistake” at his confirmation hearing. He didn't. Councilmember Harold Brazil, who ran the confirmation hearing, never asked him about it, and Brazil also never asked me about it. And the Washington Post didn't find it newsworthy enough to report. I also testified at the confirmation hearing that Few was exaggerating his educational experience at DeKalb College, although I did not then know that he had spent only one year at Morris Brown College, instead of graduating from it, as he claimed.

There is no reward for honesty in the Williams administration, and so far no one in the administration or in the Council has seen fit to impose any punishment for dishonesty. As Gary predicted in themail on July 2, 2000, “Councilmembers complain about Mayor Williams' appointments, but they continue to confirm them even when they know they will fail. Need I mention Vanessa Dale Burns, Valerie Holt? The next example will be Fire Chief nominee Ronnie Few — Councilmembers will find any excuse to hold their noses and confirm him, and in a year or eighteen months we'll be paying through the nose to get rid of him.” It's a truism of local Washington politics that nothing is real, nothing has to be acknowledged as real, until it appears in the Washington Post. The Post, like the City Council and Mayor Williams, protected Ronnie Few throughout his confirmation process, while the Washington Times reported the facts about him fully. But the protection of the Post has finally been withdrawn, which means the Mayor will be forced, against his instincts, to act. It has taken nearly two years, but we're finally about ready to pay.


Heads Up
Ed T. Barron, 

The letter from the Water Authority said that new water meters were being installed in DC that would enable water usage to automatically be read via a radio signal right from my new meter. The notice said that some time in the future the new meters would be installed all over the city. Imagine my surprise, on returning Friday afternoon from our weekly one day per week care of the grandgals, when I opened the kitchen water tap and was greeted by a hissing, spurting and burping followed by a burst of water you might assumed came from an inlet into the waste treatment plant. Brown murky water poured out of the tap for a few seconds and then turned its normal colorless flow.

The heads up is that all the faucets in the house will do the same the first time they are cranked open. That includes the connection to the washing machine. So, to preclude getting those nice white things you want to wash mixed up in all that murky brown fluid from your washing machine water tap, run a small load of old rags that you use to clean the car through the machine after they install your new meter. You could also throw in a cup, or so, of vinegar to clean out the washing machine at the same time.


A Signal Achievement
Mark Eckenwiler, 

In our last episode, Ron Eberhardt asks what on earth is going on with DC's traffic signals, given the widespread bulb outages and twisted signal stacks. Here's my (reasonably) informed answer: 1) Bulbs: repairs are usually made a contractor, M.C. Dean. Beginning last year, I noticed a major upswing in the number of outages, and learned upon inquiry that MCD was (according to Division of Transportation officials) using a low-grade replacement bulb variety that turns out to have the half-life of a snowball in August. Since this a) creates lots of hazardous conditions and b) lines MCD's pockets twice (once for the savings on material, and then again when they are compensated for the service call to replace the bad bulb), I raised this issue with Dan Tangherlini, DOT chief. Dan (whom I consider a dedicated, responsive, and intelligent public servant; fancy that in DC) tells me he is working to change these practices. When accosted by me recently, an MCD crew acknowledged that they are now using different (better) replacement bulbs. Supposedly DC's own crews are also doing wholesale periodic replacements on entire intersections once a year (as a proactive measure), but I haven't seen an instance of this. By the by, Dan T. also advises that he wants to move increasingly to the longer-lasting and more reliable LCD instruments, such as have been installed recently at the Massachusetts Avenue entrances to Dupont Circle.

2) Twisted signals: buses and trucks, I'm certain, are the culprits. With all the construction going on in DC, it's no surprise that yahoos with big vehicles are driving more and thus clipping signals more often. What is to be done? Call 671-1486 any time day or night to report a signal outage/twist. In my experience, repairs are made within 6-48 hours, a damn sight better than things ever were before. (I've mentioned this in themail before, and it's in the info on my web site at [plug, plug].) For other signage (stop signs, street signs), I've found that calling 727-1000 usually leads to results, if more slowly. (And yes, for those who have asked, I do have a day job that does not involve riding herd on DC municipal services.)


Unique Status
Ross E. Weber, 

Please be assured that I appreciate your vigilant efforts to inform our electorate. I fear, however, that when you refer to the District of Columbia as a city (e.g. “City Council,” “city” of Washington, etc.), it breeds ignorance. You know as well as I that Washington is a Federal District and is not technically a city. At one point of course, there was a city of Washington (below Florida Avenue), a city of Alexandria, and Georgetown. Each part a distinct jurisdiction of the District. Today, I am not aware if such technical entities exist. If I am incorrect in suggesting this, I apologize for wasting your time. However, you may do well for our civic pride not to refer to the District as a city in the future.


Another Open Memo for Andrew Altman, Director of Planning
Len Sullivan, 

themail's fearless leader thinks you are wasting the citizens' time and not giving them “real, effective power” (themail, April 7). He believes that in a democracy “the citizens rule and make all the decisions” (October 14, 2001). Not all themail participants share that extreme, impractical view. I, for one was pleased that the final Reservation 13 design so closely followed my own suggestions, and that so many individuals offered inputs. However, I hope you (and the mayor!) will resist kowtowing to the most strident voices at those local meetings.

DC citizens elected Mayor Williams to run the city, he hired you to run the planning office, and you are obliged to do so. If DC's mayor or Councilmembers are dissatisfied, they will let you know. If enough citizens are dissatisfied, they can vote out those officials in the next election. If some activists object sufficiently vehemently to what you are doing, they can run for office and see how many voters agree with them.

Meanwhile, please: 1) continue to solicit inputs from concerned citizens, but weigh them against your office's collective professional judgment and that of others in government; 2) avoid overreacting to extremists with some special squeaky axle to grind, particularly if they are rewriting the rules of American democracy: you have equal obligations to the Silent Majority; 3) do what is best for the whole city, its special role in this Metro area, and its unique role as the US capital city: DC must be much more than the sum of its many egocentric neighborhoods; 4) never cave in to citizens who demand services but reject developments that would yield the revenues to pay for them. 5) Re the special case of the St. Coletta site so close to the metro station, I suggest you arbitrate a solution that would satisfy the school and also provide a significant source of revenues for the city.


Not Initially
R L Widmann, 

Why did you find it necessary to misspell my name in the item below that I sent about mail and late delivery? I sent my name to you with its legal spelling, R L Widmann, and I gave you my Georgetown University address. Yet you decided that my name should have periods in it and so you made it into initials. You are such a stickler for so many points. Why do you have to introduce an error?

[I am reminded of the army recruit who had only letters as his first and middle names, who filled out the name blanks on his recruiting form as R(only) B(only) Jones, and who for the remainder of his years in the army was known as Ronly Bonly Jones. This may be a good time to explain that I do edit submissions to themail — not for content, but for stylistic points such as spelling, grammar, punctuation, and capitalization. Submissions have been sent in all capitals and all lower case, with spelling so bad that I have had to guess at the words intended, and with random punctuation. I catch what I can and try to level the playing field, both so that themail is easier to read and so that readers can judge for themselves whether a submission is reasonable or not based on its content, not its stylistic eccentricities. If you are letter-named, like R L Widmann or Harry S Truman, let me know and I shall free you of the periodic constraints. But your name won't go in themail completely lowercased unless you are ee cummings. — Gary Imhoff]


Mary Farrell’s Snail Mail
Phil Carney, 

Overlooking the Christmas cards received in February, my favorite was the undeliverable to a DC address Thanksgiving card returned the same March week that the Postal Service raised their rates.


No Taxation Without Representation
Michael Piacsek, 

On Monday, April 8, Phil Mendelson's Subcommittee on Labor, Voting Rights, and Redistricting held a hearing on Eleanor Holmes Norton's bill, the “No Taxation Without Representation Act.” For those who aren't familiar with this bill, cosponsored with Joe Lieberman in the Senate, it would suspend all federal income taxes on the residents of the District of Columbia until such time as we are provided voting representation in Congress. Norton is pushing this bill hard, and the City Council is now considering whether to endorse the bill, at the behest of Adrian Fenty and Mendelson.

Two points. First, this is a terrible bill. The bill does not give voting representation to the residents of DC. It does create a tax haven for every billionaire in the country who wants to avoid paying federal income taxes. It's not hard to see the result of this bill. Wealthy people move in, and force every poor (and middle class) person out as cost of living expenses and real estate prices skyrocket. It's gentrification beyond all imagination.

Second, the only thing more worrisome than this bill is the desire of the Council to endorse it, and the lack of enough voices opposing it. Every elected official, including Norton, shadow U.S. Senators Strauss and Pendleton, and shadow U.S. Representative Ray Browne spoke in favor of Norton's bill. The only other speakers (at all) were four members of the DC Statehood Green Party, including myself. We vigorously opposed the bill, to which Mendelson had no response at all, even though he publicly announced his support for it. For those who missed it, cable access will air the hearing a few more times. I am dismayed and frustrated that City Council members who support full democracy for residents of DC would choose to support this bill. It should be renamed the “Reward the Rich and Screw the Poor Act,” because that is only result this bill will achieve if enacted. Call your Councilmembers and tell them to oppose this bill.


More Taxation Without Representation
Kurt Vorndran, 

A little correction to Shaun Snyder's issue of Officemax and DC sales tax. I believe it is not correct that since they have no store in DC, that they shouldn't be collecting sales tax. It is simply that they are not required to collect sales tax. It is up to the purchaser to figure the sales tax and mail it in to the DC government. I am sure as a good citizen this is what Shaun does, but one must appreciate Officemax saving him the burden of doing so!



Choosing a Server-Side Technology
Barbara Conn, 

Mike Snyder, of WestLake Internet Training, will guide attendees through the maze of options to be considered when selecting the server platform, operating system, and Web-to-database integration software that can best assist your organization to fulfill the goals of your next web site. Gather your questions and bring them to the Saturday, April 20, 1:00 p.m., meeting of the Capital PC User Group (CPCUG) Entrepreneurs and Consultants Special Interest Group (SIG).

Meetings are FREE and are held the third Saturday of each month at the Cleveland Park Library (Second Floor Large Meeting Room) at 3310 Connecticut Avenue, NW — just a block south of the Cleveland Park Metrorail station — half a block south of the Cineplex Odeon Uptown movie theater. For more information about the seminar, the speaker, and CPCUG, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization, and to register for the meeting, visit


DC Vote Tax Day Protest and Bonfire
Kevin Kiger, 

Burn your tax form; protest taxation without representation Tax Day 2002 Protest, Monday, April 15, 5:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m., Farragut Square in NW downtown. Burning barrel will be located nearby on the 1700 Block of K Street, NW. Metro: Farragut North (red line) or Farragut West (blue/orange lines). Join Mayor Anthony Williams, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC City Council Chairwoman Linda Cropp, and many other community and civil rights leaders as we protest the treatment of District residents as second-class citizens. Throw copies of your forms in the fire and let Congress and America know that we will no longer tolerate paying taxes and having no say in how that money is spent. Americans must hear about the denial of fundamental civil rights for the 572,000 residents of the District of Columbia. Our battle-cry is equal rights for equal responsibilities!

DC Vote, the Committee for the Capital City, the DC Democracy Fund, DC RABBLE, Let's Free DC, Stand Up! For Democracy in DC Coalition, the Statehood Solidarity Committee and numerous other civil rights and voting representation organizations will be there to help protest our treatment as second-class citizens. Forward this E-mail and the message of injustice along to your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors and others who will speak out for themselves and for the residents of Washington, DC Help us end this denial of equal civil rights! Join us at the Protest on April 15. For more information or to volunteer on April 15, by passing out flyers at Metro stops or helping at the information tables, please contact DC Vote at 462-6000 or visit


Murch Book Sale at Politics and Prose April 27th and 28th
Sue Bell, 

Murch Elementary School is holding its second annual book sale at Politics and Prose bookstore and coffee house all day Saturday and Sunday April 27th and 28th. Politics and Prose will donate 20 percent of all money received from your Book Fair purchases to Murch Elementary School. Shop for mothers' and fathers' day gifts, graduation presents, and get an early start on your summer reading lists. Pick up a coupon inside the store at the register and mention Murch so your purchase will support the school. Great selection of books, CDs, cards, gift warp and magazines. The store is located at 5015 Connecticut Avenue, between Nebraska Avenue and Fessenden Street NW. Parking is available in the back of the store. Hours are 9-11 Saturday and 9-9 Sunday. Murch is a DC public school located at the corner of Reno and Davenport. Proceeds help cover salaries for our teaching assistants, extend our Nurse's hours to full time and provide supplies for our music and Spanish programs.


Open Space Forum No. 9
Ivor Heyman, 

Is it important to you to understand the perspectives of those in your work environment? Open Space Forum No. 9: Dealing with Conflict in the Workplace, Saturday, April 20, 4:30 - 7:00 p.m., DCJCC, 1529 16th Street NW (Enter through Q Street entrance), fee, $5. Bring a snack for the group and peanut butter and jelly for the Morris Cafritz Center Hunger Action Program. Hosted by Ivor Heyman ( and the Morris Cafritz Center for Community Service.

Recent studies show that the average manager spends 42 percent of his/her time trying to resolve conflict in the workplace. This month's Open Space Forum will explore ways in which we can reduce the amount of conflict in the workplace, and make work a more pleasant experience for everyone. The Open Space Forum meets informally on a monthly basis, bringing together a group of people from diverse backgrounds to discuss issues in an open and inclusive way. Please visit for more information on the Open Space Forum.


Benefit DC-IMC, Thursday, April 18th
Eddie Becker, 

Something never seen this side of the Hudson River, direct from NYC's Ground Zero, the Healing Style, Free Style, Spoken Word, Playback Theater. And documentary films, flash art, DJ dance, live mixed video, cyber show and slow food served with spirits. Thursday, April 18th, beginning at 7:00 p.m., at Cada Vez, 1438 U Street, NW. Brought to you to benefit the DC Independent Media Center (IMC).

7:30-9:00 films: Uprising from the Streets of Argentina, find out what's really going on, meet the film makers and hear the discussion with an unusual assortment of experts. Chaos theory has never been so clear! (Produced by Big Noise Jacquie.) 9 p.m.-10 p.m., live theater: the New York City and Washington DC Playback Theaters will be coming together to tell OUR stories using improvisational theater and free styling hip hop. You won't want to miss this. 10 p.m.-12:30, dance and spoken word: top DJ's from NYC and DC team up with hip-hop poets, dancers, actors, musicians and “V.'s” — mixing spoken word with live video mixes action in smoke, and flashing lights.

Emerging from this primordial soup is Manhattan's Baba Israel (, and his crew Open Thought, featuring Yako and DJ Center. They fuse live Hip Hop with freestyle, beatbox, spoken word, live instrumentation, and turntablism. The Chicago Sun Times called Baba's Mind Music “Lyrically flowing, musically innovative political hip-hop in the old-school tradition of Public Enemy and KRS-One.” He's more to the point “I rhyme because I don't see myself in sitcoms/the real world or dot-coms/Cause sometimes I'm not calm/I rhyme because I'm sick of the strong-arm/The mass media lockdown that poisons hip-hop sound. Baba, Why (Part II)” Live video mixes by Noskilz Sound Syndicate and Yeast directions,

Spoken word from members of DC's Movement: Rajeev Kasat, bushtaxied his way through West Africa, and will share some of the sounds, images, and words that he captured as he made his way home. Get a dose of what you will find in his recently published book Trails. With Taariq David, host of The Movement's spoken word/jazz poetry event on Monday nights at Bar Nun. Rajeev Kasat, artist, organizer, and educator. He has recently published his first book Trails. Along with the hard edge poetry by Fahima and Tiffany Dumont from the Boston IMC Video and Toneburst collectives will be bringing her Molotif Soundfall video installation. You won't stop moving so that's why there will be a separate chill-out space on a top floor of Cada Vez. Relax eat delicious organic slow food and check out the extraordinary photo exhibit, exclusive to this event only.

This whole shebang is being pulled together to benefit the Independent Media Center. Once again, providing independent reporters and activists from around the country and the world, with work space, computers access, video editing, electronic connections and Streaming Internet radio to report on that weeks big events. If you can't make it go to for coverage, Questions? DC-IMC, 483-3700. The IMC supports itself on donated labor and contribution. Each dollar goes a long way. Please donate: go to and support independent media.

Price of Admission $10 - $15 (no matter when you come) with sliding scale, so no one will be turned away. Directions to Cada Vez: 1438 U Street, NW. Located in the Heart of DC's U Street Corridor, by 14th and U Streets, NW, just two blocks from the U Street/Cardozo Green Line Metro stop. For map see



Short Term Housing Needed
Ian Sheridan, 

Looking for housing from now until late July (about 3-1/2 months), for a very responsible couple and 3 year-old daughter. Prefer Cleveland Park or other NW DC location. Can pay up to $2200/month, depending on place. Prefer kitchen facilities. E-mail Ian Sheridan,



Nordic Track
Fred Davidson, 

Nordic Track Abworks Machine, mint condition, hardly used, $75, 244-8598.



Agate J. Tilmanis, 

DC Tree Inventory will account for every street tree in the city. It will then prepare a computerized map to provide baseline information for a cost-benefit analysis for more trees in DC. It needs volunteers to look at all those trees! To find out more call GCA Casey Trees at 833-4010 or visit them at



Abandoned Cars
John Whiteside, john at logan circle dot net 

Where do you report an abandoned car? (And does it do any good?) I tried to find the info on the city web site and gave up in frustration.


Information for Moving
Helen Oliver, 

How do I get a permit to park a moving trailer overnight in DC? Who do I need to call, and does anyone have any advice on this process?


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