Controversy for a Change
I'm tired of writing about the uncontroversial and bland things I
usually address, so for a change I'll take on a couple of controversial
topics. First, the halfway houses. On Thursday, the Washington Post
reported, as though it were a news story, that a criminal advocacy group
that promotes halfway houses in residential neighborhoods issued a
report that denies that these facilities cause any problems (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A20281-2002May15.html;
the report itself will be, but is not yet, published at http://www.dcprisonerhelp.org,
click on Projects/Publications). Is anyone surprised? Has anyone who
every tried to resolve a problem with a halfway house in this city ever
been met with anything but denial, both from the organization that runs
the facility and from city government officials?
Second, speaking of denial, has everyone noticed that for the past
few years themail has had two continuing threads that almost never
intersect? These two threads speak to the great divide between two
groups of politically active people in this city. The first thread is,
broadly speaking, about the frustrations we face in trying to achieve
good government — honest, efficient, and effective — in our city.
The second is about the frustrations we face in trying to achieve both
full self-government and representation in the national government.
Those whose primary concern is representation -- voting rights through
statehood or other means — rarely address the local government's
corruption and inefficiency. One reason for this is the belief that
voting rights are an inherent right that needn't be earned and shouldn't
be dependent on our local government's good behavior. Two other reasons
are more practical: advocates realize that emphasizing the failures of
the city government strengthens the resolve of their opponents; and
advocates are allied to, and often led by, local politicians who see the
diminution of federal oversight over their actions as the main benefit
of increased self-government. But wouldn't the case for self-government
and voting rights be strengthened if its advocates also led the fight
for good government?
My wife recently received the registration renewal for her car, which
arrived ten days before the registration expired. After telephoning the
DMV, she was informed that the new computer system was having problems,
and many registration renewal forms went out late. This, of course, is
the new computer system that the administration has been claiming will
solve all the problems at the DMV. A responsible citizen would go down
immediately to the DMV and renew the registration in person, but the
computer system was down the day before and no DMV bureaucrat will tell
you over the phone whether the system is operating on the day you want
to go. So we took our chances with mailing it in.
This is when we learned another interesting fact. The DMV has up to
fifteen days after your check clears to send your new registration and
stickers, and apparently it's in no hurry. Funny that the parking
enforcement employees seem to be far more efficient than the DMV, since
a $100 ticket was on my wife's car within hours of the registration
expiring. I've spoken to a few other people in the city who have not
received their registration renewal in time. The conspiracy theorists
might wonder whether, in a cash-strapped city, perhaps these late
registration renewal forms have little to do with the new computer
system but rather are a shameless way for the city to boost revenues.
Apparently, a late registration renewal form is not grounds to overturn
the $100 ticket, meaning that either the city collects many thousands of
dollars for its “computer” problems, or DC residents must give up an
even greater amount of time and labor productivity to renew their
registration in person. Hmmmm.
I am (perhaps foolishly) thinking of purchasing a home in the
District and am looking into crime reports for certain properties. I
have tried http://mpdc.dc.gov/info/districts/districts.shtm
but every time I enter an address it comes up “The Parameter is
incorrect.” The site has been this way for over two months. Does
anyone have any idea how to easily find out PSAs? I have tried all sorts
of DC government offices, and the police department, but no one seems to
know an easy way to find out PSAs and crime statistics. I find this
totally baffling that this fundamental information is not easily found.
Mayor Williams heads out of town again this week to attend the annual
meeting of the International Council of Shopping Centers in Las Vegas.
The DC delegation consists of Mayor Williams, Councilmembers Brazil and
Orange, Deputy Mayor Eric Price, and representatives from the DC
Marketing Center, the National Capital Revitalization Corporation,
community development corporations, developers, and business leaders.
The DC Marketing Center has produced a report on “Retail
Opportunities” in Washington as a sales tool for the trip,
highlighting development opportunities in DC's neighborhoods.
The Las Vegas junket comes just after the Mayor and Mrs. Williams
have returned from a ten-day trip to Europe (May 4-14), during which the
Mayor attended the three-day “Glocalization” Conference in Rome (http://www.glocalforum.org).
“Glocalization” isn't a typographical error — it's a neologism
defined as encouraging “global powers to have a broader respect for
local powers.” The World Bank took a leading role in organizing and
funding the forum and the continuing “Glocal Metro City”
organization, as a response to the growing anti-globalization movement.
While Mayor Williams enjoyed springtime Europe, the City Council
debated and finally approved the District's FY 2003 budget; the
Department of Motor Vehicles, the agency that the Mayor touts as the
prime example of his management reform, continued its meltdown with a
series of central computer slowdowns, failures, and crashes; DC Public
Schools reorganized its central administrative staff and issued
Reduction in Force notices to 1100 employees in its central
administration; the resume problems of Fire Chief Ronnie Few and his
three top officials from East Point, Georgia, continued to raise
questions about the competence of Williams's management of the
department; and the unimproved DC Child and Family Agency let Layla
Randolph's three-year-old life slip through the cracks.
Many fans of the beautiful game have been lobbying the
soccer-friendly bars to open for the World Cup matches in a few weeks so
that soccer fans in DC can get together and watch their national team.
Because of the time difference between here and Asia, most games will be
shown live at 3, 5, and 7 a.m. Lucky Bar and Capitol Lounge agreed to a
pretty decent schedule between them; almost all the games live. Well,
fans just got some pretty bad news from Cap. Lounge/Lucky Bar.
It seems that within a couple of hours of posting the bars' World Cup
viewing schedule on the Soccer-Nation web site they got a call from the
ABC Board advising them that they are not to open outside their normal
hours under any circumstances. There's really not much they can do about
it. It's their livelihood, so they can't very well thumb their noses and
open anyway. Besides, they have to deal with these ABC guys every day,
not just for one month of the World Cup.
Given the games' late broadcast time, it would be clear that no
alcohol would be sold, and the outside areas will be empty (no TVs
outside), so neighborhood noise would be kept far below the sound of the
garbage trucks that run through my alley at 5:30 a.m. The DC government
makes temporary exceptions to its rules all the time. So what can be
done to persuade the people at ABC to allow soccer fans in this very
international city to congregate at their chosen spot to watch the
mother of all games?
Postcard from Big D
John Whiteside, john at logancircle dot net
I'm just back from a weekend in Dallas, visiting a friend, which gave
me a chance to see more of that city than I ever have in business trips.
It was fascinating. It would be hard to find a place more unlike DC.
Everything is big — the houses, the freeways, the hair. It's
completely car centered, despite the development of some good new
urbanist projects around the city and some enhancements to their public
transit. It's ugly as sin, with sprawl that makes northern Virginia look
charming. And housing is cheap — it's interesting to see how people
live when they're not spending all their money on shelter.
But most shocking was this: the people who live there love it.
They're proud of it. They tell you the great things about it. They want
to show it off to you. Now that I've lived in the District of Complaint
for years, it's refreshing to go to a place where people are capable of
civic pride, even when they see the problems of their home town. When I
returned to DC looked around, was very happy to live in a place much
nicer than Dallas, and wonder why so many of us hate it so much.
The Marriott Myth and “The Plan”
Alexander Padro, Padroanc2c@aol.com
In "The Words We Have to Eat," in the 05/15/02 edition of
themail, Harold Foster made the statement that "we now know that
Marriott has, in effect, bought up the entire eastern flank of the new
Convention Center." The rumors about Marriott buying up property in
Shaw and moving out poorer residents is nothing but an urban legend.
Nary a week goes by without a constituent contacting me, often in tears,
because he or she has learned that (select from one of the following
Section 8 buildings: Immaculate Conception Apartments, Gibson Plaza,
Kelsey Gardens, or Lincoln Westmoreland I) has been purchased by
Marriott for conversion into a hotel. Or luxury condos. In every
instance, I have dutifully contacted the management of the buildings in
question, city officials, and hotel chains to attempt to confirm the
rumors. In every instance, the rumors have proven false. As of this
date, Marriott does not own a single square inch of property in Shaw.
Have developers purchased property adjacent to the new convention
center in order to build hotels? Absolutely. On the 1000 block of 7th
Street, NW, on the east side of the southern end of the new center,
Douglas Development has assembled a number of commercial properties and
empty parcels and has offered to construct a convention center hotel to
be managed by Hilton. On the 1000 block of 9th Street, NW, west of the
new center, Kingdon Gould has done the same, with Marriott as the
hotelier partner. According to a statement by Steve Green from the
mayor's office at a press conference on Friday, a decision on which
development group will get the nod to build the convention center hotel
is due in June. To date, the new convention center has not displaced any
residents of the low income apartment buildings in Shaw. Last year,
Kelsey Gardens, on the 1500 block of 7th Street, NW, was put up for
sale. But when I helped the tenants to pursue their right to purchase
the property, the complex was taken off the market. A few weeks ago, it
was announced that Immaculate Conception Apartments was being sold to
Mid City Financial, which owns Lincoln Westmoreland I and Washington
Apartments. Mid City Financial's stated objective is for Immaculate
Conception to continue to be populated almost exclusively by Section 8
families. But I am nonetheless encouraging the tenants to pursue their
right to purchase the building and begin the process of creating wealth
for their families through homeownership. And Marriott is still nowhere
And where the O Street Market is concerned — after years of poor
management, broken promises and failure to pay taxes and repay federal
loans by the former owner of this landmark, last year, an investor group
bought the multimillion dollar tax liens on the property and settled the
myriad other debts associated with the property so that it could at last
be positioned for redevelopment. And the African American former owner
remains a minority partner (no pun intended). The management company is
in regular contact with me and makes periodic presentations at community
meetings to ensure our input into the redevelopment process. Lastly, if
I hear one more person tell me about “The Plan,” I'm going to tell
them to check into St. Elizabeth's. If the nefarious characters
allegedly behind this scheme to rid Washington, DC of all African
Americans hold so much power, how come this city still remains a
majority Black one, three decades after "The Plan" is said to
have been conceived? DC residents of all races have much more to fear
from Andrew Altman and the Office of Planning than they do from the late
Richard Nixon or any of the other notables that legend tells us created
“The Plan.” Or does Mr. Foster know something the rest of us don't?
Bleeding Hearts, Hemorrhaging Budgets: Is There a Doctor in the
Len Sullivan, firstname.lastname@example.org
Gary's assertion that his Hated DC Government cares more about sports
promoters than the citizens of River Terrace, Kingman Park, and Capitol
East makes about as much sense to me as claiming that DC cares more
about hiring good doctors than curing the ill. They are the two sides of
the same coin. Two thirds of DC's gross operating budget supports the
needs of DC's less well-off citizens. Those three neighborhoods are well
within the 75 percent of the city's limited land that consumes
considerably more in city services than it produces in tax revenues.
Sports promoters are one relatively short-term way to bring in revenues
from otherwise underutilized spaces under DC's control. Redeveloping
Reservation 13 and the SE Federal Center are obviously better, longer
term options. But I see little sense in heeding inputs from citizens or
demagogues that propose to increase expenses and deny raising revenues.
It may sound appealing to the intended beneficiaries, but it's a formula
for permanent welfare dependency on the Hated Federal Government.
The Race to the News of the Race
Kathy Sinzinger, NewsDC@aol.com
Just wanted to point out that Serge's “good article” came six
months after The Common Denominator wrote the same story last
November. Serge broke no new ground, except that Sharon Ambrose returned
his call for a brief comment. We added this Post story to our
front window display of how Post reporters seem to need to read
the news in The Common Denominator first.
[The web site of The Common Denominator is http://www.thecommondenominator.com.
In the E-mail edition of last issue of themail (though not on the web
site archive), I accidentally gave the wrong address for the first
Washington Post article, merely repeating the address of article in
themail. The correct address was http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A8232-2002May12.html.
Today's follow-up article is at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A39098-2002May18.html.
-- Gary Imhoff]
Ed Barron makes a good point that budget overruns have led to a
serious cut in the number of children who will be able to attend summer
school classes — that there are serious consequences to mismanagement
that can be debilitating to the students attending the DC Public
Schools. However, one could make the point that “more of the same”
won't necessarily lead to any better results in terms of educational
Red Arrow — No Turn
Vikki Kratz, email@example.com
Re: Annie McCormick's complaint about the red arrow on Thomas Circle
and Massachusetts that motorists blatantly ignore: I have lived on this
circle for more than a year and nearly every day I am practically run
over by motorists who ignore it. I have even had motorists honk at me
and impatiently gesture for me to get out of the way when the light is
red and the "walk" sign is flashing! The red arrow is clearly
visible, and there is even a helpful “No turn on red” sign posted
right above it. This red light arrow is also in front of an apartment
building for senior citizens, and watching them try to cross the street
while cars honk at them and try to speed through the light is upsetting.
Who do we call to get one of those red-light cameras set up at this
intersection? Preferably before someone gets killed.
Red Arrows and Dan Tangherlini
John Whiteside, john at logancircle dot net
Annie McCormick asks whether red arrows mean stop. Yes, they sure do.
I know this because I was pulled over and given a warning a few years
ago for making a right turn on red (after a full stop, thank you) at one
on Washington Circle. Of course, this doesn't mean anyone actually stops
— I've had the same near-death experience when crossing P Street on
the west side of Logan Circle. I suspect I may be the only person in the
history of DC ever stopped for breaking this law, though.
Recently I speculated that DDOT chief Dan Tangherlini doesn't exist,
since I'd had no luck getting him (or anyone in his department) to
respond to me. (For those who thought I was E-mailing the wrong address
— nope, I was using the form on the DDOT web site.) I'm pleased to
report that DDOT has a real live acting director. I heard from Mr.
Tangherlini after someone told him about my posts in themail, and we've
exchanged a few E-mails about my transportation concerns. So, we'll see
what happens next.
Sam Farmer’s “ECRA Worth Fighting For” (May 15)
George S. LaRoche, LaRoche@us.net
Mr. Farmer says that, “amongst those who have studied the
Constitution, a constitutional amendment is far and away the preferred
solution. That is just my feeling, nothing scientific.” Unfortunately,
this is just Mr. Farmer's feeling. Of the several dozen law review
articles studying or addressing the District's constitutional status
even obliquely, NONE include any arguments which would support Mr.
Farmer's assumption. And in my own research over the last decade, I've
yet to find a single attorney who believes that amendment is
“preferable” to statehood or retrocession on
"constitutional" grounds (as opposed to political or
A significant constitutional issue was raised by Adam Kurland at
Howard University law school, who argues that the 23rd Amendment should
be repealed as part of either statehood or retrocession (as Farmer
notes, but without attribution to Kurland's work). Kurland's arguments
have convinced me he is correct, but I take his position not as a
"bar" to statehood or retrocession per se but as indicating a
deep structural problem which should be addressed to avoid a later
constitutional "crisis" (serious problem). And Kurland's
argument certainly doesn't necessitate or even indicate a conclusion
that statehood or retrocession are therefore inferior to an amendment.
In fact, because Kurland's arguments are so compelling, they also stand
as a warning of the dangers of further amendment of the Constitution to
isolate and define the status of the District and its residents. Such
amendments would only more clearly delineate the segregation of the
District from the federal system under which everyone else lives and,
therefore, probably would have to be repealed in order to move toward
statehood or retrocession.
The remainder of Mr. Farmer's arguments are focused on political
considerations of the likelihood of passage of a statehood bill as
opposed to an amendment. These predictions may be accurate, but
political feasibility does not translate into legal or constitutional
“preference.” And while Mr. Richards' public opinion survey (to
which Farmer refers) may be correct, public opinion is not the ultimate
test of constitutional legitimacy. One of the basic, structural
principles of American constitutional law is protection of the rights of
minorities, so majority opinion does not define minority rights. So, if
one thinks that statehood or retrocession are bad ideas and if one
thinks Congress should continue to manage the District as a little
federal laboratory, but one wants representation in Congress, then an
amendment conferring representation in Congress is a reasonable
“preference.” But don't dress that parochial political choice up as,
“far and away” the “preference” of “those who have studied the
CLASSIFIEDS — EVENTS
CHIME: Scottish Fiddling and African Drumming
Dorothy Marschak, firstname.lastname@example.org
You have just two more chances to enjoy CHIME’s Music Around the
World series of free programs at DC public libraries this spring, before
we break until next October. 1) Saturday, May 18, 2 p.m., Lamond-Riggs
Library, 5401 South Dakota Avenue, NE (541-6255 for directions).
Scottish fiddler and dance instructor David Knight will give a
lecture-performance on how the fiddle became the main dance instrument
in Scotland and spread to Ireland and America. Audiences are encouraged
to participate with some or all parts of their bodies. 2) Tuesday, May
21, 7 p.m., Mount Pleasant Library, Lamont Street near 16th, NW
(671-0200 for directions). Percussionist Steven Nash and his group Ajiki
will demonstrate many kinds of African drums and drumming and how they
spread to Latin America and the Caribbean. The audience is encouraged to
participate in dance, song and rhythm.
For information about these programs or CHIME, visit our web site, http://www.chime-dc.org,
or contact us at email@example.com
or 232-2731. Next year we plan to extend our programs to three
additional libraries — Northeast, Watha Daniel and Francis Gregory —
as well as continue at Mount Pleasant, Lamond-Riggs, Petworth, and
Benning. We would like to add a library in Ward 8 as well. CHIME
(Community Help in Music Education) is a DC nonprofit dedicated to
mobilizing community resources to promote and provide music education
for DC public school children. In addition to these library programs
aimed at all ages, we have a Music Mentors program in partnership with
Big Brothers Big Sisters; provide music instruction in schools and
after-school programs; distribute donated instruments to schools and
other programs; put on programs for DCPS students and professional
development workshops for DCPS teachers through the DC Arts and
Humanities Education Collaborative; and lead an advocacy campaign to
include music education in the required curriculum for DCPS elementary
school students. We rely on volunteers and donations to carry on. We
welcome your participation in either or both capacities.
May 16 Cocktail Charities
Marguerite Boudreau, firstname.lastname@example.org
May 16 Cocktail Charities will benefit Ward 1 Alley Cats (http://www.geocities.com/ward1alleycats)
and the Furry Faced Friends of Walter Pierce Park. Thursday, May 16th at
Crush. All tips at Crush will go to Cocktail Charities. All proceeds
from “Chef Master Ken's Buffet” will go to Cocktail Charities! The
event will start at 6 p.m. and go 'til closing. Crush is located at 2323
18th Street, NW, near 18th and Belmont Streets in Adams Morgan. For more
information, call 319-1111.
CLASSIFIEDS — FOR SALE
800 MHz computer with 256 mg RAM, 30G HD, 17' Monitor, network
connection. Good computer in great shape. I move to Africa in June
through December and am taking my lap top instead. $850 for entire
Key Strength Trainer 2000 Weight Bench
Kate Zimmer, email@example.com
Great deal for someone who wants to work out at home. Key Strength
Trainer 2000 weight bench, bar, mat and 255 lb. weight set. Heavy duty
oversized tubing. Sturdy no tip front and rear stabilizer. Scratch and
chip resistant electrostatic finish. Comfortable high density foam pads.
Weight bar safety hooks and retainer spring clips. Exercises: leg
extension/curl, crunch, chest press. $275.00 or best offer.
CLASSIFIEDS — SPACE WANTED
Looking for a Book Group Meeting-Site
Charlie Stevenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Global Nomads, Washington Area, or GNWA, are looking for a site
for our monthly book discussion meetings, to which the public is
welcome. Ideally, we'll have something convenient to Metro, in the city,
at little if any cost, and for a couple of hours, one Sunday afternoon
"Global nomads" are basically people who spent formative
years overseas due to parents' careers. GNWA is creating new activities
and programs at this time. For more information on the group, or GNWA
generally, contact Norma McCaig at email@example.com.
themail@dcwatch is an E-mail discussion forum that is published every
Wednesday and Sunday. To subscribe, to change E-mail addresses, or to
switch between HTML and plain text versions of themail, use the
subscription form at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail/subscribe.htm.
To unsubscribe, send an E-mail message to firstname.lastname@example.org
with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. Archives of past messages
are available at http://www.dcwatch.com/themail.
All postings should also be submitted to email@example.com,
and should be about life, government, or politics in the District of
Columbia in one way or another. All postings must be signed in order to
be printed, and messages should be reasonably short — one or two brief
paragraphs would be ideal — so that as many messages as possible can
be put into each mailing.