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May 1, 2002

Wasted Opportunity

Dear Wastrals:

The much anticipated showdown between Mayor Williams and the City Council, the Mayor's testimony to the Council about the Inspector General's report on his illegal fundraising schemes, fizzled today. It wasn't the showdown at the OK Corral; it wasn't the thriller in Manila; and it wouldn't qualify as a playground spat. It didn't even rise to the level of arched eyebrows over teacakes.

Only Councilmembers Chavous, Catania, and Evans asked hard questions to elicit solid information about the wrongdoing. They didn't get that information. Instead, Mayor Williams gave long-winded, evasive, nonresponsive speeches about his good intentions and high purposes, and his filibustering ate up the brief time Councilmembers were each allowed for questioning, so that they didn't have the opportunity to press for real answers. Councilmembers Cropp, Patterson, Fenty, and Mendelson tossed softballs, and Councilmember Orange lobbed marshmallows, to the Mayor, and Councilmember Graham indulged in blatant sycophantic pandering to him. Graham's opening statement drew several rounds of applause from the audience, which was packed with city government employees who had been ordered to attend (during their work hours and on the taxpayers' dime) to support the Mayor.

Mayor Williams's performance was pathetic, transparently (to use a favorite word of this administration) slippery and shifty. But today he got away with it. Orange's final words of the hearing, summing it up, were appropriate: “It was mild and meek, for the most part.” Certainly the Council was mild and meek; the Mayor should be emboldened by at least the temporary impression that he can continue to get away with skating at and over the edge of ethics.

Gary Imhoff 


Nonpartisan Elections for Mayor and Council
Lars Hydle, 

DC school teacher Tom Briggs is in trouble under federal law because he ran for City Council, contrary to the federal Hatch Act. Meanwhile, Mayor Williams is in trouble with his fellow DC Democrats because he participated in a fundraiser for a Republican Chair of a Congressional subcommittee with jurisdiction over the District. If our elections for Mayor and Council were non-partisan, as originally proposed by the House of Representatives during the Congressional debate over our Home Rule Charter, Briggs would have been free to run for the Council. And everyone would have understood that the Mayor was just lobbying for the District.

DC politics will remain dominated by the Democrats for the foreseeable future. But federal politics will have an important Republican component for the foreseeable future. How does the District benefit from gratuitously confronting and alienating national Republicans? Dominant party regimes rarely produce good government. In DC, as in the Democratic South between 1877 and the 1960s, winning the Democratic primary has been tantamount to victory in the general election -- except in the at-large Council seat which Democratic candidates cannot contest. Yet the Council is not run on a partisan basis, nor could one identify the party of the Mayor or any Council Member on the basis of his/her record.

So long as these elections are partisan, not only DC public school teachers but also thousands of federal civil servants who live here are unable under federal law to run for those offices. The answer is a Charter Amendment making the elections for Mayor and Council non-partisan. The September primaries could be open to all with the two leading vote getters, if none won a majority, contesting the general election in November.


The Ongoing Fundraising Scandal
Dorothy Brizill, 

Mayor Williams hasn't learned anything from the investigation and report on his past illegal fundraising schemes. According to the Inspector General's report, the major consistent theme across all of the past off-the-books fundraising has been that the money was raised, either by government employees or by people outside the government, to pay for government events or for the Mayor's own political purposes, and that the money was never deposited into official government accounts. This had two primary advantages: first, the sources and the amount of money never had to be publicly reported or accounted for, allowing for secrecy and under-the-table deals; and second, the events could be paid for while evading government procurement policies and safeguards.

Mayor Williams is still running events this way, and he still claims to be unable to see anything wrong with it. The Office of Community Outreach (formerly the Office of Constituent Services) has organized a series of senior citizens town hall meetings for the Mayor over the past six week, which are basically indistinguishable from reelection campaign events. At some Ward events, groups of up to two hundred seniors have been served full sit-down luncheons, and other unreported expenses, such as for transportation, have been paid for. The Mayor's office has kept secret both the sources of the money and the total amount spent. While claiming that he wants to be “open and transparent” and to report fully, the Mayor has sent reporters following the story to the Office on Aging and to a series of Executive Office of the Mayor employees -- Lafayette Barnes, director of the Office of Partnership and Grants Development; Grace Lopes, Mayor's legal Council; Joy Arnold, the Deputy Mayor for Community Outreach — who claim they have no information. Meanwhile, the Mayor continues to protest that if he says an event is for a public purpose, nobody should raise any questions about how it is paid for. Read the contentious exchanges at two recent press conferences at


DC Equal Constitutional Rights Amendment
Mark Richards, Dupont East, 

The Washington Times Opinion/Editorial section published an op-ed (April 29, 2002) by Timothy Cooper, Charles Wesley Harris, and myself, titled, "Implicit statehood: Give the District a new constitutional status." You can read it at:  We hope for a vigorous discussion about the possible remedies to the injustice DC has lived with for two centuries. We recognize that DC citizens should consent to whichever remedy is chosen. Here is our Draft DC Equal Constitutional Rights Amendment text. This text is still under review; please recognize that this text is for purposes of discussion.

Section 1. All US citizens who are permanent residents of the District of Columbia shall be treated as residents of a state for all constitutional intents and purposes, enjoying those same rights, powers and privileges as the people of the several states, including: The right equal representation in the House of Representatives. The right to equal representation in the U.S. Senate. The right to a republican form of government. The right to all Constitutional powers and privileges. The right to equal protection. The right to elect equal electors for President and Vice President.
Section 2. Congress shall limit its power to exercise its “exclusive legislation” over the District of Columbia under Article 1, Section 8, paragraph 17 of the constitution to the following geographical areas, except in the case of a compelling national interest: The National Capital Service Area (NCSA). All foreign embassies and missions.
Section 3. The Federal Height Act of 1910 shall remain in full force and effect, subject to the discretion of Congress.
Section 4. General services may be provided to the federal government by the District of Columbia government on an as needed basis on such terms as are mutually satisfactory to the parties. Nothing shall prevent the federal government from compensating the District of Columbia in the form of a payment in lieu of taxes for revenues foregone as the seat of national government.
Section 5. The federal government shall continue to hold jurisdiction over and provide for the District of Columbia's courts and correctional facilities, as provided for by the Economic and Revitalization Act of 1998, until such time as the District by mutual agreement with Congress shall pay for and administer these facilities. At such time they shall come under the exclusive authority of the District of Columbia government.
Section 6. The 23rd amendment shall be repealed concurrently with the passage of this amendment.
Section 7. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Meter Feeding
Michael Bindner, 

Tim Cline asked how far he had to move his car to not be guilty of meter feeding. The correct answer is out of the ward. Meters are designed for two hour temporary parking, not day long parking. If you need to stay longer, you need to find a parking garage. Of note on the question of parking, there are only privately owned parking garages, and the private owners contribute to the Mayor's and Council's reelection campaigns to keep it that way. This is another instance where our form of government dictates the results. If there were more councilmembers to buy from smaller districts (and at lower salaries) the odds are that the parking interests could no longer buy it off and prevent the erection of public parking garages with long term meters.


Meter Feeding II
Ron Eberhardt, 

I do not have an answer for the writer who was given a ticket for exceeding the two hour limit on a parking meter notwithstanding that he moved his vehicle to another meter prior to the expiration of the first. What I do have is a comment. It is totally sad that we live in a jurisdiction that is obsessively preoccupied with the issuance of tickets for everything. The Mayor and Council seem to be oblivious to the fact that such harassment and preoccupation with ticket writing directly and adversely affects the quality of life for those of us who live here.

The sadder fact is that their preoccupation is about one thing: MONEY. Whether parking meters, photo enforced speed traps, missing your car inspection renewal by one day (additional $15 fine), you name it. This is surely one of the most punitive cities in the US, and it is disgusting.


Ed T. Barron, 

The Mayor should vote to censure the DC Democratic Party and Ward 8 for their partisan politics stand, taken when the Mayor indicated his support for someone he likes, Connie Morella, of Montgomery County. We need to overlook labels and partisan politics when it comes to making things better in DC. Though not a fan of what Tony Williams has done to date as mayor, I do applaud his decision to support someone he deems as a friend of DC.

If anyone is in need of seeing something nice about DC then I urge them to take a springtime drive, or two, through upper NW DC. A leisurely drive through Spring Valley and AU Park will dazzle you with the explosion of flowering trees, plain old huge towering trees, and azaleas. Throw in the tulips and daffodils and you've got an incredible vision of spring that is unmatched in any major city that I have visited. I would find it hard to leave this city after seeing the beauty of each spring.

While you are taking that drive in NW DC, be sure to make it very leisurely on Western Avenue. This has become a real cash cow for the District, as they snare drivers going just over 30 MPH (the speed limit is only 25 on this four-lane roadway) going both east and west on Western Avenue between Massachusetts Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue. They use unmarked cars that photograph your license plate and a record of the speed you are traveling. Not only do they fine you 50 bucks for the ticket, you also have to have it notarized before you return it by mail. A note from your mother would not work.


What a City!
Dru Sefton, Dupont Circle, 

Kirsten, I heartily agree with you! (“Loving DC,” April 28) A longtime Midwesterner, I moved to Bethesda three years ago and just in February moved into a great brownstone apartment in Dupont. I am loving this city! I’ve met so many people with such fascinating professions: An illustrator for the Smithsonian, a fossil curator, a neuroscientist with NIMH, an earthquake tracker, a suicide sociologist. And it seems that nearly every day I hear at least three languages spoken in the Metro or on the sidewalks. Also, it's a great dog city! I live across from Dog Park, a few blocks from Sweet Licks, the dog-friendly ice cream shop (which, of course, my dog Widget just loves). There are lots of caring and interesting organizations to volunteer with — I just signed on to help Pets-DC, which assists low-income HIV/AIDS patients with pet supplies and vet care. And oodles of unique social opportunities! My favorite is Travelers’ Circle, which meets the first Wednesday of the month at a little Indian restaurant. Fifty or so folks share their overseas adventures and love of the planet with stories and an occasional song. And if you want to get really happy, check out any night at the oh-so friendly Club Chaos on 17th — total exuberance! I just don’t seem to face the hassles that so many of you complain about, with the DMV and city services, etc., maybe because I ditched my car and don’t own a house. I sure am here to stay, and I’m so glad I finally found a true home in DC.



Music of the Arab Peoples at Benning Library on May 4
Mathew Davies, 

This week CHIME invites you to listen to and learn about the music of the Arab peoples in an interactive presentation by music educator and performer Grant Chamberlain at Benning Public Library, 3925 Benning Road, NE (near Minnesota Avenue), Saturday. May 4, 2-3 p.m. Free. For directions, call the library at 724-4787. You will get a sense of the diversity of the music and cultures of the Middle East as well as characteristic similarities. Grant will demonstrate the basic sounds and forms of Arab music, explain when and why music is performed and what instruments are used, and give a basic overview of the history of music, both secular and religious, in the Middle East. The audience can try its hand at playing some of the instruments. This is the sixteenth of the 19 free programs for all ages scheduled this season in CHIME’s series “Music Around the World” at four DC neighborhood public libraries. For the complete schedule, visit our website at

Grant Chamberlain received his Master of Music degree in Australia, studied Arabic at Birzeit University in the West Bank, and taught at the National Conservatory of Music in Jerusalem. He has also taught music as a volunteer in a Palestinian refugee camp, a primary school in Ramallah and at a Peace Center in the Muslim quarter of the Old City. While in Ramallah, he participated in an Israeli-Palestinian jazz band. He is a professional saxophonist, but since moving to Washington last year, has focused on introducing young children to music from around the world at local schools and centers, including the Levine School, Wolftrap, the World Bank Child Center, the Congressional School of Virginia and the Oneness Family School. He has also taught at Walker-Jones public school as a CHIME volunteer.

CHIME (Community Help in Music Education) is a volunteer organization that promotes and provides music education for DCPS schoolchildren, during and outside of school. In addition to our library series, we recruit and place qualified volunteer music instructors in classes during and outside of school; collect and distribute instruments in good repair to schools; train teachers; have a Music Mentors program in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters; and conduct an advocacy campaign to put standards-based music education in the required curriculum of DCPS elementary school — as it used to be! For more information about our May 4 program, CHIME, or how you can help, E-mail; phone 232-2731; website:



Twin Bed for Sale
Matthew Kessler, 

Solid oak twin bed with Serta Sleeper mattress for sale. Solid oak box frame, bookshelf headboard with two cabinets and two underside drawers with brass handles. Excellent condition. $200 or best offer. You pick-up and haul. Contact Matthew at or 744-1163.



Whistleblower Alliance Fund
Madeleine Fletcher, 

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) has said about my whistleblower lawsuit against DC Department of Health and its Director Dr. Ivan Walks: “This is a very important test case because the District's law is the state of the art for whistleblower protection rights in the United States. The public interest in the waste and mismanagement she exposed at the DC School's food warehouse is compelling. The facts reveal blatant, cynical retaliation. If Dr. Fletcher cannot prevail, it will prove that the bureaucratic power of self-preservation and unaccountability is indeed stronger than the rule of law — there's a fundamental credibility issue for the Mayor and the District Council in this case.”

However, legal costs are now over $15,000 and will at least double before the trial is over. I am asking for help to continue this lawsuit. In the event of a settlement or judgment in my favor, I pledge to match all donations towards my legal costs and contribute the total amount (your donation and its match) to GAP's Whistleblower Alliance Fund, with the provision that it be used for the defense of DC whistleblowers who lose their jobs and cannot afford legal representation. For information on my lawsuit, please read an article in The Common Denominator at: Please send your tax-deductible donations to: Government Accountability Project, 1612 K Street, NW, #400 Washington, DC 20006. Please make checks out to “Government Accountability Project” and specify “Fletcher WB Alliance Fund” in the memo line.

Presently, GAP is able to offer dedicated public servants first-rate legal representation in their moments of crisis, but it does not have the funds to cover many of the critical expenses involved in any sustained legal battle. On the other hand, the District's attorneys have unlimited resources to throw at (usually unemployed) workers trying to defend themselves. Former GAP clients created the Whistleblower Alliance Fund as a special fund set-aside for whistleblowers in need. The Fund has a separate bank account from GAP's general funds to ensure that the needed financial support will be available whenever needed. The funds will directly pay the costs of courageous employees who cannot cover costs as they are incurred. And your donation will be a gift that keeps on giving. With the legal awards that come with victory, GAP will be able to ensure that the wrongdoing employer reimburses the Fund in full. In this way your donation and its match will return to the Fund for even more cases. Given GAP's successful track record over the years, I hope you view this as a solid investment for the future!


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